Dafuskie Island, South Carolina
Sunday, June 6, 1991
Dafuskie had a tranquil and calming effect on Nat. He had been walking for an hour on the beach when he stopped and looked across Calibogue sound and took note of the light house guarding the inlet to the Harbour Town marina. The setting sun glinted from the familiar spiral landmark and was in contrast to the shadows that had already engulfed him. He had been on Dafuskie for two weeks and had made a habit of taking a late afternoon walk on the beach. Without having noticed an ominous cloud was quietly flanking him as it moved in from the land side of Dafuskie? The breeze freshened, giving warning to a potential change from the usual perfect day expected by the vacationers. A lightning flash at sea startled Nat. The thunderbolt could be seen from its natal beginnings to an ultimate crash into the ocean. Nature's grand spectacle must have registered three miles in length and have required a capacitor of untold magnitude to generate such a spark and had to be powered by millions and millions of volts. Rain was now galloping down the beach like a herd of wild stallions, hell-bent to catch the unprotected Nat and trample him while on his evening stroll.
Nat yet to detect his coming predicament, said to himself, "God, this is beautiful! Why on earth don't I leave the university and move down here? Am I as greedy as those I condemn so quickly? Why is it so important to accumulate wealth for no particular reason?"
This philosophical turn was truncated by the first drops of rain blowing downwind from the approaching storm. His three mile stroll had left him far from any familiar shelter. A blinding flash, followed by an immediate ear-splitting crash reminded Nat of his mortality. Panic involuntarily flooded through his system, stimulated by the near miss of a heavenly bolt that struck less than five hundred feet from his current footsteps. Suddenly the storm broke over Nat in a furious inundation accompanied by winds approaching hurricane force. Harbour Town was suddenly obscured from his view across Calibogue Sound by the sweeping torrential rain that suddenly changed a tranquil seascape into one of danger and foreboding. The surf was now pounding. White caps covered the Calibogue Sound like fields of cotton.
Nature provoked fear clouded Nat’s mind as he said to himself "Lord, God, in heaven. This is serious. I have to go somewhere to get out of this storm. I could get under the palms lining the beach but when they find my body everyone will know that choice was a dumb choice to have made."
The rain turned Nat's shorts and tee shirt to a dripping outer skin and he could immediately feel the drop in temperature that wet clothing and drenched skin suggest. His hair was plastered to his forehead and visibility was now sharply restricted to a very few yards.
More by sixth sense than anything else Nat detected a movement in front and to his right. He had to virtually close his eyes against the blinding rain but he did detect a figure not more than forty yards away coming out of the surf. He attempted to run toward the figure but the wet sand slowed him to a pace that is usually only experienced in a dream. As the distance diminished the figment became more distinguishable and was heading for a now saturated beach towel and some other seaside paraphernalia. He assumed the figure knew of some close-by shelter and would also be looking for protection from the storm.
"Help! Help! S.O.S., I'm going down for the third time. Do you know anywhere I can go to keep from drowning?"
"If you will help me gather my things I'll fix you a drink in the cabana."
Nat shouted, "You get the towel and your glasses and I will get the chair and the rest."
"Good, I am running on. Follow me. I want out of this torrent."
Nat quickly gathered the equipment as promised and took off stumbling awkwardly in the wet sand until he found a path bordered with well landscaped semi-tropical shrubbery. Within a few seconds he was confronted by the most elaborate structure he had ever seen masquerading as a cabana. Even through the waterfall volume of rain he quickly calculated the cost at one and one-half million dollars. He carried his dripping load along a sheltered porch, following wet prints of small well formed feminine feet. He arrived at the door of an equipment room and deposited the gear he had gathered on the beach. He turned back toward an outdoor staircase leading to the second floor and was startled to see his benefactor. While her back was toward him it was quickly apparent that he was looking at the most curvaceous figure of a woman he had ever seen. When she turned and glanced at him over her shoulder the impression was one of pure elegance. Everything about her suggested wealth, breeding, and proper schooling. Her hair was wet and plastered to her head but even under these adverse conditions it was apparent that her coiffure was attended by the best of hair stylists the continent of Europe could provide. He estimated her to be thirty years old but maturity had enhanced her beauty. Sophistication and self assurance graced her every move. She was dressed in the briefest of string bikinis more appropriate to the Riviera than these southern shores. For the first time in his life he could only stare.
"Come on up and I'll fix you a drink. The view is better up there."
"I came here to get out of the rain and not make a pass at you but I must tell you in all honesty the view couldn't possibly be any better upstairs than it is right here."
She smiled at the compliment.
She did not respond to the comment but with a toss of her head said "Let's go upstairs and get out of our wet clothes."
With the womanly confidence of one that always got her way, she ascended the stairs in her Bikini in a provocative but natural way manner any debutante would envy.
When Nat reached the third step from the top he was greeted by an architectural wonder. The great room into which he was emerging had ceiling that was more than twenty feet in height. From his lower position in the stairwell the room appeared to be gigantic. On the far side of the room was a stone fireplace twelve feet wide that soared through the roof. The east wall of the cabana looking toward Calibogue Sound was solid glass and presented a sweeping view of Harbour Town, had the view been available, and the ocean to the east. The couch facing the fireplace was the same color of the surrounding sea. Each piece of furniture was obviously expensive and had carefully been selected to compliment this beautiful room.
"Go in the bedroom and change out of your clothes. There is a robe is in the closet in the bathroom. I'm going to shower and you should too. It'll warm you up. I think you're going to be here for a while. The rain is really setting in. There are under garments, shorts and a pullover you can slip into until your clothes dry. It will take me thirty minutes to get ready. Make yourself at home."
"You're going to entirely too much trouble but I am desperate enough to take advantage of the best offer I've had in a long time."
Nat went into the bedroom. He had stayed in some of the best hotels in the world but nothing could match the appointments he found in this magnificent structure. He thought to himself, 'The decorator must have been given a blank check and then overspent it. Everything is tasteful, matching and expensive. What on earth must the main house be like?'
He slipped out of his wet clothes and placed them on the top of a pearl inlayed hamper. He reached inside the shower to turn on the water. The controls on the shower called for the occupant to select his or her preferential temperature for the water. He selected 130 degrees and stepped inside. The hot water was available immediately. He made a minor adjustment to the temperature and then basked in the warm waters flowing over his body. He selected from a range of shampoos conveniently provided in the shower stall. The soap was new and unused. The shower stall was of clear glass and while showering he could see the pounding surf through a large window facing the beach and Harbour Town. After finishing his shower he dried himself on a thick plush towel. On the sink were a new razor and an unused can of shaving cream. He refreshed himself with a shave and slipped on the perfectly tailored robe. He splashed his favorite cologne on his face, selecting from a wide choice of sweet smelling lotions. He walked back into the bedroom and decided to take advantage of the offer of fresh clothing if anything fit. He opened the top dresser drawer and selected a pair of expensive Italian made silk shorts and a matching pullover. He then looked into the parallel drawer and found new underwear. They were thirty six, his size.
He dressed leisurely and found the shorts and the pullover to be his size also.
"I'm lucky as hell to find someone who is as large as I am and willing to share his clothing on such short notice. Whoever he is, he's one wealthy son of a bitch to keep a complete set of clothing in the cabana. I'd better get back to the great room and see if my rescuer will be willing to run me back to my house."
Nat returned to the great room and a feeling went through his body that he had never experienced before. It was as if he had placed his finger in an open lamp socket and received an electric shock. He was not prepared for the sight he was now facing. Perched on the bar stool with drink in hand was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. She was dressed in the briefest of shorts and a silk blouse with a deep vee neck and no supporting undergarments. None were needed. His first impression on the stairs outside in the rain had jolted him but it was nothing compared to the feeling he was currently experiencing as he surveyed a women perfect in every detail. She appeared as if an artist had concocted her in a moment of inspiration rather than being borne of woman and raised in a mortal family. She was tall, at least 5 feet eight inches. The curves of her body almost seemed exaggerated they were so noticeable. There was no detectable blemish anywhere and she was open for considerable inspection because very little of her was covered with the clothes she was wearing. The cheek bones and the shape of her face hinted of European extraction. Skin complexion was dark enough to suggest a perfect tan. Nat could not detect at the moment where the tan stopped. He was looking at perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world. A true international beauty and she knew how to properly exploit all of the assets she possessed. He wanted to sit quietly and enjoy the visual image in much the same way one is confronted by truly great art.
She came to his rescue by starting the conversation.
"I have your drink ready. You look like a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks man to me."
How did you know or does everyone adore Johnny Walker Black like I do."
"No, you might say I am psychic."
"What else can you guess about me?"
She smiled and said, “I don’t spend my time guessing. I know you walk on the beach every afternoon."
Nat asked, "Is that all you know about me?”
"I knew a man was going to come into my life that was six feet three inches tall. How tall are you?"
" I am Six three."
"I knew he would weigh 198 pounds."
"Well, it couldn't be me I weigh very close to 200 pounds but the last two pounds came since I have been on Dafuskie."
"I knew this man would be extremely intelligent."
"You might have missed the boat on that one," he laughed.
"He would not be more than forty and in wonderful physical condition."
Nat laughed, shook his head, and didn't reply.
He thought to himself, “Where is this conversation going?”
She continued, "He would have an academic background and be an authority on computers.
"Seriously, have you been reading my mail?"
"No, I told you I was psychic. Don't you believe me?"
"I'm beginning to believe. Seriously, are you psychic? All of this is way over my head. You have to be teasing me. No one can do what you have just claimed to do."
Sabrina answered "Why not?"
"It just doesn't happen. Not to me anyway. Did you make it storm today?"
"I might have."
"Where do I work?"
"I told you that you were an academic. You teach at the University of North Carolina."
"Yes, but that judgment could have come from my close set eyes and sloping forehead. I must fit the academic profile."
"You don't have close set eyes and a sloping forehead. You're depreciating yourself the way southern men do when they want to turn on the charm. In fact a person of your physical attributes must have quite a time defending yourself from aggressive females."
"Are you an aggressive female?"
"I can be when I want to be."
"Would you go to bed with a perfect stranger?"
"I've never met anybody that was perfect?"
"Would you sleep with someone for business reasons?"
"Never carry a weapon that you're afraid to use. It can get you killed."
Nat had met his match. He laughed out loud and she picked up on his mirth in controlled but seductive way."
"I have just met the most unusual woman that I have ever experienced."
"Really, I can’t imagine why you would say that.”
Nat decided he would push this conversation boldly and try to determine what was going on within the mind of this gorgeous female.
He asked, "Can we become friends?"
"Aren't we already friends?"
"I presume your definition of friends is different than mine. I have to know more about you. Friendship usually is a growing process and takes at least a little time. "
"That can be arranged."
With a puzzled look he asked, "Are you really psychic?"
"Do you have a better explanation?
He laughed, "Do you always answer a question with a question?
"Do you know a better way to draw someone out?
"Well it obviously works with me."
"Let me refresh your drink."
Even her pouring scotch whiskey into a short glass filled with ice was pure poetry. Every move of her body was perfect and added a new and interesting interpretation to her personality. Nat was charmed. Nat was enthralled. Introspectively he was analyzing the reaction he was having to his new female companion. He had unknowingly changed gears emotionally. He was now the calmest and most controlled he had ever felt in his life. The energy was still there. It was not lethargy. It was happiness. He was exhilarated. He likened the experience in his mind to studying with a Tibetan monk and finding peace. He had never experienced this feeling in exactly the same way before.
With his refreshed drink in hand he asked, "Tell me some more about this man that was to come into your life?"
"He is a brave; he is a learned with many academic degrees. He is highly organized and possesses a logical mind but also has great intuition. He can react quickly in time of danger. He is someone you can trust. Were my life is threatened I want him as my defense. I want him to be my armor and my spear."
"That is rather melodramatic statement. Have you been reading paperback novels?"
"Do I look like I read paperback novels?"
"No. You are strictly champagne and great books. I did not mean to say anything to offend you, but suddenly your conversation took a serious turn. It sounded as if you were on a mission, and I thought you were on vacation."
"Everything I do is serious. I just have fun doing it."
"Do you mind if I ask how you came to be in this incredible cabana?"
"I was employed to come here."
"Is this your employer's house?"
"No, this isn't any body's house. This is just the cabana. The house is the most incredible home in South Carolina. It must have cost seven or eight million at the very least."
Nat looked directly in to her eyes, "Tell me about you."
"This isn't the time."
"Do you have a name?"
"Sure, it's Sabrina. I think the first name will do for the moment. The last I will tell you later." The statement was accompanied by a smile that would have made angels sing.
"Am I getting the drift that you already knew something about me?"
"I told you I was psychic."
"I know, but I didn't believe you."
She responded,” Why are you here with me right now?"
Nat answered, "By coincidence."
"I do not believe in coincidence. Your life has to be under your control or it will explode in your face."
"Has it ever exploded in your face?"
"It hasn't yet, and I'm going to do everything possible to keep it from happening.
"You mentioned your employment brought you here. What kind of duty requires these surroundings?"
"I am on a recruiting trip."
"Who on earth could you possibly recruit on Dafuskie Island? There isn’t anybody here but wealthy golfers."
"What's wrong with wealthy golfers?"
Nat frowned and asked seriously, "What do you want your recruit to do?"
"We all want to make money. How much money are you talking about?"
"There is an immense amount of money involved"
Nat asked, "A hundred thousand dollars?"
"Do you make a lot of money?"
"I do very well."
"Would you be willing to tell a perfect stranger how much you make?"
"I told you that I never met anyone that was perfect."
"Would you tell an imperfect stranger how much you make in a year?"
"I wouldn't tell a stranger anything worth knowing."
"Then I will never know."
"You are not a stranger."
"What do you mean I'm not a stranger? You don't even know my name."
"I know more about you than your mother. I told you that I live a very controlled existence. We wouldn't be here talking if I weren't sure that you were the person I wanted."
"What do you mean that you know more about me than my mother?"
"I have been studying you for three months. I have had the most powerful people in the world using their resources to find out everything there is to know about you. We have discussed you from every angle in Board Rooms in six foreign capitals. But I have the final decision. They always leave that up to me."
"What powerful people?"
"I can't say."
"Is recruiting for these people your main job?"
"No. I really don't work for them they just employ me for specific tasks."
"I take it they pay you well."
"I earn ten million dollars for each assignment. I usually limit myself to one assignment each year."
"What on earth do you do?"
"I do whatever is necessary."
"Are you talking about murder? Political assassinations?"
"Whatever is necessary?"
"Are you talking about murder."
"No, not murder, but I have had occasions that contracts have been placed on me by very powerful people and so far they have been unsuccessful. To be honest some of these encounters have been violent. I have survived them and they haven't."
Nat furrowed his brow, "Ten million a year."
Sabrina answered, "Ten million dollars for each assignment."
"Are you suggesting to me that our encounter is not by chance and you came to Dafuskie to recruit me?"
"I am not suggesting anything. Our meeting was not by chance. I do nothing by chance."
"I am a faculty member at University of North Carolina. Why do you want me?"
"You have an unusual set of credentials"
"What are they?"
"I have already told you many of them but one of them is the fact that you are male and have the mental capacity I need for the job I have accepted."
Nat was puzzled and stated, "My background is in languages and literature."
"You are also an expert with computers."
"That is more of an avocation. I simply like anything that is scientific and technological. Computers just happen to fit this interest."
"You have the assets I need, believe me."
"I can't just give up teaching."
With an amused disdainful look on her face she responded, "That is a ridiculous statement and you know it, Major decisions in your life must be made in a serious and thoughtful manner. You will have more than enough to live on for the rest of your life."
"What numbers are we talking about when you say enough to live on?"
Sabrina quietly said, "I am talking about one billion dollars."
"God almighty, you can’t possibly mean one billion dollars."
"You will earn it if you get paid."
"What do you mean if?"
"You will get one million dollars for accepting my offer of employment. I will be getting ten million. If we are successful we will both take away one billion dollars paid into numbered bank accounts anywhere in the world. I can give you some advice on that matter. I have considerable experience in the banking and investing of large sums of money."
"Why does your partner have to be male?"
"Does that mean you are interested?"
"Of course I am interested, but I need a more detailed description."
"I'll tell you about our assignment when you agree to work with me."
"It sounds like danger is involved."
"Danger is always involved when the rewards are great."
"Are we talking about getting killed?"
"Without question, if you're detected."
"Tell me the whole story."
"I can't tell you anything else until I'm sure you're going to join me."
"You planned this meeting?"
"I paid fifty thousand dollars to use the house for a week."
Slowly he spoke, "Why don’t you take me home and allow me to sort this entire matter out. I'm not sure I can grasp something of this magnitude and give it the thought that it deserves."
"You're not going home."
"Why? Won't you take me?"
"No, I want you to stay."
"Are you about to offer me added inducements to take the job?"
Sabrina smiled, "Whatever it takes."
Their eyes met and held for a long moment.
"What if I never want to leave?"
"It's my job to see that you don't."
"What else can you tell me about this lucrative assignment?
"We'll be working together. You will bring your special talents to the table and I will mine. If we are successful in this assignment we will have the reputation and the connections for future assignments of this magnitude and will be able to name our own price. This could be your entree to becoming one of the richest people in the world. There is danger involved because the people we will be up against are incredibly wealthy and have an investment worth killing interlopers to protect. You will be living by your wits and the stress involved suggests that one assignment a year is all that you need to undertake. Of course after this one assignment you will have enough to live in luxury for the rest of your life and never work again should that be you choosing. I warn you however, this work is addictive and you will have difficulty getting out of the business."
"What do you bring to the table that makes you worth ten million a year?"
"You press me to discard my usual modesty but it is a fair question. I am intelligent, an I.Q. pushing 190. I am beautiful. I am as well educated as you. I am multi-lingual, I am resourceful, I can get a man to do anything I want him to do, I am trained in the martial arts, I am wealthy, sophisticated and with some modesty must say that I am never barred entrance from any gathering. I am trained to use virtually all types of firearms and will use the weapons when necessary. But most of all I'm successful, and its success for which you get paid. Those may sound like braggadocio terms but you needed to know the capabilities of your new partner."
"You sound as if I had already agreed to work with you."
"Didn't I say that I could get a man to do anything I wanted him to do?" She smiled that incredibly radiant smile. "We have already spent more than a half million dollars on you. You're the person we need and it's my requirement to get you to come on board. I told you I'm successful. I am always successful." Again that smile. "I haven't even used my big weapon yet." Again that smile.
"I think I'll wait to see if your big weapon is as devastating as you say it is. If we are thinking about bonding I should at least know what I am buying into."
"Sometimes it is better to withhold the weapon and let the promise of its use work for you. It would even be grander to consummate a deal as a celebration than to use it as a bargaining chip."
"You're convinced that I am already sold."
"There is not any doubt in my mind."
"How can you be sure that I won't listen to your proposition and then betray you?"
"It makes no sense. You have an incredible amount to gain by joining me and nothing to gain through betrayal. Anybody in the world with your intelligence would give anything for this opportunity. Our psychological scans determined a high indication that you are a risk taker when the rewards justify it. I must add that it is very questionable that your future employers can let you back out at this stage."
"Why is that?"
"You now know me. I am their most valuable employee and their most securely kept secret. This knowledge you have now gained make you valuable if you work with us and totally dangerous if you choose otherwise."
"Is this a threat?"
"Not unless you perceive it to be."
"Is what we are going to be doing illegal?"
is more the way you interpret
what we do. Yes we will do things that are patently against the law. On
other hand we have support from very high places in our national
because we will be performing certain services that are too dangerous
internationally for them to be caught doing. We are working for a
organization that has great influence with all of the western powers.
ways they are more powerful than the government itself. You must also
understand that we are not employees of this organization. We are
independent and work for them only on a contract basis."
"Do we have their support when we need it?"
"Count on it."
"Financing is no trouble I take it?"
"You couldn't spend the money as fast as they are willing to provide it. But they do expect success and they will get it. That's why they keep coming back to me. No failures, they get one hundred percent accomplishment."
"How do I leave the university? Request a leave of absence?"
"You will never go back. Quit. Retire. Tell them that you are going to spend the rest of your life traveling and writing. The academic community will accept that."
"When do I start?"
"You're on the payroll now."
"Do I have a salary?"
"No, you are on an unlimited expense account. You will be paid after we have completed the assignment."
"What about traveling money?"
"Accounts are already set up for you in Switzerland, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, and Shanghai."
"Have you been there?"
"Yes, two years ago."
"You will be going back."
"Now can you tell me what we will be doing?"
"Of course, but let's eat first. I did not mention earlier that among my accomplishments I am a gourmet cook. There may not be another man in the world that has ever been offered all that you are about to get."
"What is that?"
"Me." Again that smile.
Her beauty was almost overwhelming. She would dominate any room. How on earth could she be kept as a secret?
"Can I help in the kitchen?"
"Just open the wine."
Nat replied, "My favorite of course?"
"What else! I did get a bottle with a bit more age than you usually buy. I want you to get used to the very best!"
The meal was a good as advertised. Much of the preparation had been done earlier in the day. Her last minute attention brought the delicate flavors to the veal and the salad. A perfect meal prepared by a most unusual lady. The dinner conversation had been social in its entirety. I was obvious that Sabrina had the ability to be the charming hostess without allowing any business to spoil the conversation. It was during the meal that Nat discovered the many and varied dimensions of Sabrina. She worked at everything she did. He found her to be an artist, a poet, an essayist, a musician. Widely read in the classics and an incredible conversationalist.
Nat was impressed.
They returned to the comfort of the great room. The rain had abated and the lights of Harbour Town had reappeared. The blinking light from the light house periodically punctuated the horizon. Sabrina poured Nat a brandy and retreated to her chair. She pulled her legs up under her and launched into the assignment they had been given.
"During the last three years a Chinese tycoon has begun to play a significant role in the Pacific Rim financial markets. The size of the moves suggested that this person was the front for a gigantic syndicate which had suddenly surfaced with enormous sums to spend. Anytime a new player comes to the table the entire financial world is interested. They want to be prepared to deal with the person or the group in the future. Inquiries were made at virtually every international financial center to see what information was available that might be helpful in analyzing the group. The inquiries turned up very little information that was useful. The sums of money available were truly frightening. The amount appeared to be limitless.
The investigation did uncover some interesting facts. The investment in the Pacific Rim financial markets was small potatoes. Banks were being bought under the names of front corporations all around the world. Banks were even being started in many countries. So far there has been no detectable interest in acquiring companies focused on manufacturing. Everything is focused on the financial world. Our employers are in an uproar. Up to this time our employers were the major financial players throughout the world and their supremacy has been unchallenged. Now comes a new face, with very deep pockets, and this person is totally an unknown. If this trend continues, this one person will be able to dominate monetary cash flows throughout the world. I am talking about the ability to break nations' economic systems by controlling the money supply."
"Is the United States vulnerable?"
She replied, "Very vulnerable. We have for years worried about Arab money suddenly being withdrawn from our banks and moved to another country. If this had happened our banks could not have come up with the needed cash to cover these withdrawals, and neither the Federal Reserve nor the FDIC could have covered the monetary moves. Our economy is in the hands of international investors. They carry great portions of the national debt. The Arab threat is now on the back burner. It is pale in comparison to the new menace from the east. This person is awash in cash and is buying everything financial anywhere in the world that is the least bit sound. Oddly enough, even a shaky bank can be stabilized with the infusion of cash. You know it takes money to make money, so most any investment becomes safe. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world other than through this Chinese connection."
"What is the source of the money?"
"There is none."
"What do you mean 'there is none'?"
"With all of our resources we cannot uncover any stream of income. It appears to come out of thin air. No industrial plants, no stock offerings, no farms, no banks until recently. There just is no detectable stream of income. Our target does own the Bank of Shanghai with its twelve branches, but that was acquired after the wealth was accumulated. Anyway, these banks are so new that they haven't made any money yet. I'm sure with all the money spent on capitalizing the bank; there must still be a negative cash flow. It's definite that the Bank of Shanghai is not a source of wealth."
"You mentioned a syndicate. Can you identify any of the members?"
"We thought that it had to be a syndicate to generate these huge sums of money but we struck out. The syndicate is nonexistent. No outside source of funding can be located. We can't even find any business dealings taking place on a small scale that can tie anyone to the individual."
"How much money is involved?"
"Hold on to your seat. We can now safely estimate that the wealth of this individual is increasing at the rate of hundreds of millions of dollars each and every day."
"How do you and I fit in?"
"With no source of detectable income, the money has to be obtained illegally. There is no way to hide income streams of this magnitude."
"How can we be worth a billion a piece?"
"This person is now worth 500 billion dollars, many times over the richest person in the world. If this money can be found and recovered, our small percentage wouldn't even amount to a typical finder’s fee. We are the best investment our employers can make. We are costing them nothing but a few dollars in expenses. We stand to make them incredible sums. If we are successful as I intend for us to be, we might take away far more than a billion a piece. That may just be the starters."
"Well the money is not theirs. If we do recover it why would they have any right to it?"
"They don't. But whose is it? If we can recover the money it will have been so well laundered that no one could ever find the rightful owner. So someone has to fall heir to it. To them it is much like salvaging a ship at the bottom of the sea. To the victor belong the spoils."
"What about our Federal Government? Won't they make an attempt to claim to the money?"
Sabrina was quick to reply, "Absolutely not. They are well aware of all we will be attempting to do. If we fail the world economy can be held hostage. That includes the United States. Our government wants us to succeed and they don't care how. The stakes have never been this high before. They want this threat ended and if their friends worldwide make five or six hundred million out of it that's a fair reward for the service rendered."
"Did you say our tycoon is richest person in the world?"
"Yes, and all of the wealth has been accumulated in less than three years."
"What about drugs? Couldn't this be the financial end of a great oriental cartel? We are talking about China."
"Your thinking is right on target. We checked it out in every way possible. There is no connection. It would have been easier if it were. The government knows what's going on in the drug world. These are separate operations."
Nat asked again, "Why me? You are the one that said you could get a man to do anything, including me; I don't yet see why I am so important to the operation?"
"I said we needed a male."
"Our Chinese business tycoon is female."
"Good God in heaven!"
"The richest person on earth is a 35 year old Chinese woman and she has done it all in three years."
"What makes our work dangerous?"
"In three years she will be worth one trillion dollars and she is not about to see this money taken away from her. If either of us is ever detected, the largest contract in history will have our names on it."
"You do make it sound interesting."
"Does she have a name?"
"Dr. Sing Pao, but we have a code name."
Sabrina continued, “It is not very original but it does fit. She paused and said, Dragon Lady."
"Dragon Lady. That gives this operation a certain comedic touch. When will I find out my role?"
Sabrina answered, "Right now. It is our job to infiltrate her organization, find the source of her money and take it away from her."
"Infiltrate what? An American goes to Shanghai and infiltrates a Chinese organization convincing them to share all of their secrets allowing us to surreptitiously steal 500 billion in assets and then come home and turn this money over to a group that did nothing but employ us to steal the money from her. Do I have the gist of this plan?"
"You do. I will admit that you left out a few details but you are pretty much on target."
"You're going to be fun to work with."
"I'm going to be fun to play with too."
Nat slowly asked, "The rain has stopped. Can we walk on the beach? I want all of this to soak in out in the fresh air."
"Sure, that would be fun."
They slipped out of the door of the cabana and retraced their steps down the path they had followed in the rain a few hours before. Once on the beach they commented on the lights of Harbour Town and headed south. The sudden storm was now history and a new moon was the navigation point they were following as they strolled slowly down the beach. Sabrina's hips were brushing his in a slow rhythmic motion. Nat silently wondered if he would ever be able to walk close to this seductive undulating body gliding down the beach in step with him. He slipped his arm around her shoulders and she immediately shifted bodily gears and was perfectly aligned and in tune with each movement of his body.
Sabrina looked up at Nat and said, "Nat, do you think sex is the basis of the male-female relationship?"
"Are you serious?"
"Then let me give you a serious answer. Can you believe I have the feeling I'm falling in love with you, and yet we've only known each a few hours? I know rationally that we cannot possibly develop the kind of relationship born of trust and interdependence in such a short time. I'm sure you probably have this same effect on most men you meet. I presume that's sex, but in a broader definition than just going to bed together. We pretty well know that power is a great aphrodisiac. It's not unusual to form an immediate crush on someone with whom you have never even spoken, or at best barely know. This happens all the time to college professors, corporation presidents, even preachers. I presume that springs from the libido.”
“I'm also well aware, as you are that sex often precedes any real emotion between two people and they fall in love afterwards. In fact, I'd say that early on in two people's relationship they would have trouble distinguishing between true love and a wonderful experience in bed. Yet to come to the conclusion that these people only have a relationship based on sex is simply not true. This early encounter often is a cementing act to two people who are strongly attracted to each other. I do believe that sex is the initial act of love of many adults. Physical enjoyment between consenting adults is normal. This act of giving, this act of love is a fine way for people to make the beginning of a commitment to each other. We know this doesn't always work, but what does?"
"I'm going to tell you something you might not believe. When I was offered this assignment it became immediately apparent to me that I was going to need a man. The reason was to get some things done that I had been able to do myself in earlier assignments when the target was a Man. I used the resources of our employers to do the initial screening and was able to narrow the field to roughly fifty men. I then used governmental connections to run a full workup on all fifty. The qualities I was looking for appeared in ten. I think that all of you had the basic qualities to do the job necessary. Five, however, were very handsome, but somehow not as complimentary of my physical appearance as I wanted. Of the five remaining you had two characteristics that stood out above the other four. First, it was your mind. Our psychological workup indicated strong intelligence, creativity, wonder, and cunning. It also indicated a bent toward self preservation that's absolutely essential in this business. The second characteristic was a personal one. You complimented me perfectly. Your rugged good looks will dominate a party and cause a stir wherever you go. Somehow I could sense even before I saw you that I would want to go to bed with you."
"How did you plan to recruit me? You can't make it storm, can you?"
"No, but I was laying in wait for you. The storm almost wrecked my plans for today. But you were right on schedule. If the storm had come one minute earlier you would have found shelter somewhere else and I would have missed you. But I was here for the duration and I would have found you somewhere else on the island. From that point on I would have worked on my project until I had recruited you. I have enough vanity and confidence in my winning ways that you were destined to become my new associate. Are you offended that one of the main reasons I chose you was for your body?"
He laughed and drew her close to him. Then slowly and deliberately he turned her around and she tilted her chin up to the proper angle and closed her eyes. Her lips parted slightly and she moistened her lips with a flick of her tongue. The embrace was long, slow and languid. Then the tension began to build and she pressed her body hard into his body filling every space available with the flexible flesh that softly covered her beautiful body. He took his tongue and slowly inserted it in her mouth. At the first entrance she sucked on it hard and drew it into her mouth until he could feel a slight amount of pain at the roots when its body could no longer be extended. He delicately broke off their kissing, moved back one half step, and began unbuttoning her top button. She smiled a delicate version of her fabulous smile. He proceeded to unbutton the other three buttons and the silk blouse fell away exposing the beautiful mounds of flesh. Her nipples were hard, erect and very large. She immediately wanted Nat's shirt off. He slipped out of the shirt and threw it into the air with abandon.
They immediately resumed their embrace but now urgency had replaced the tenderness that had been exhibited before. Nat slipped both of his hands inside the back of her shorts and cupped a cheek of her buttocks in each hand and pressed her toward him in a steel vise grip. She responded with a quiver that was entirely unexpected to Nat. Her breath became short and she began to writhe and undulate in an uncontrolled almost uncoordinated manner. Sabrina had reached another plane of consciousness that was entirely new to him. Both immediately started to disrobe each other as if the thought had been placed in their minds from an outside source. When this was completed, they both took a long moment to observe the naked body of each other, and they were obviously pleased. Their embrace resumed and as if their bones had lost their rigidity, they both melted to the sand oblivious to any discomfort present on the gritty surface.
A wave broke and washed completely over them. Other preliminaries were forgotten as is often true the first time lovers enjoy each other's body. The rising tide showed no mercy and continued to wash over them as they thrust and responded. The love making in the surf was like a wild roller coaster ride. The intensity was so great that the sexual encounter came to an abrupt but joyous climax. Sabrina cried out, and in an involuntary manner, Nat did too. That was a first for Nat. They continued to lay in the surf for a good ten minutes clutching each other but communicating only in a subliminal manner.
Finally Nat said, "Are you ready to go home?"
"No, I want this to go on forever." Sabrina still had not returned to her normal state but appeared to be coming down from her experience very slowly. Nat had never witnessed a person for whom sex was such an integral part of her psyche. Finally Sabrina got up and collected their clothes but made no effort whatsoever to redress and did not give Nat the opportunity to do so.
As they were walking back to the cabana in the nude, Sabrina continued in her sexual mood, obviously in a state of euphoria. She radiated a presence that suggested she had just enjoyed one of the greatest experiences of her life.
Finally after minutes of blissful silence she spoke. Nat had reverenced her mood and had kept his peace himself.
Sabrina broke the blissful silence, “I think that now you have completely ravished my body it would be nice if you knew my name.”
Nat grinned, “After that experience I don’t even care what your name is.”
Sabrina pretending contempt, “Spoken like a true man. But I am going to tell you anyway. It is Cabernet, Sabrina Cabernet.”
Sabrina continued on, "I am going to speak to you seriously now. That was our first time to make love, so I let you break a cardinal rule."
"I didn't know you had rules"
"Oh yes, I have many but I won't tell them to you all at once. It might frighten you off. But I will tell you my cardinal rule. When we make love, plan to devote at least an hour. I don't believe in Dr. Ruth's quickies. Love making is very serious to me. You may have noticed. It's something I don't take lightly. I don't ever want you to approach me, and I promise I won't approach you, unless you can devote your full attention to me. If you have a legitimate emotional need, I'll respond and I'll be empathetic with your need and desire. I expect you to do the same. But only if it is real desire. If you do otherwise I'll have been cheated and I'll know. This will destroy our relationship over the long run, and if you value our relationship, you'll respect it. If you don't, then you don't deserve me."
"I've known you for four hours and you are the simplest, most complex person I have ever known."
"Nat, you have an opportunity that any man on earth would kill for. If you're as smart as I think you are, you won't screw it up. I do require complete honesty. I'm not just talking about what we say to each other, but what we feel toward each other. Violate that trust, and our relationship is at an end. Honor that trust and you'll be rewarded in so many ways you'll come as close to nirvana as any man on earth."
Soon they were back in the cabana. Both enjoyed a night cap and proceeded to the master bedroom. Both were still undressed and took a shower together removing the salt and grit collected on the beach in their first physical encounter. After they retired to the oversized bed Nat paced himself more carefully knowing that an hour or more of sheer ecstasy was the first order of business. Nat awoke at three in the morning. This was unusual as he usually slept straight through the night. He touched Sabrina and the response was instantaneous. Another hour of the night was spent with not only the most beautiful, but perhaps the most sexual woman, in the world. Sex transported Sabrina to a level of sublime consciousness that is possible only to a few lucky women. She actually changed worlds when she was physically involved at such a deep level. This was a woman of many dimensions and all of them were deep and meaningful. Nat was in love. He was completely head over heels in love. Eight hours after meeting Sabrina he was now fantasizing about spending the rest of his life in blissful happiness with this woman who had totally captivated him.
Monday June 21, 1991
Two weeks later Nat boarded an early flight for Los Angeles from the American Airlines hub at Raleigh-Durham. Upon arrival in L.A. he caught a cab to the Beverly Hills Hotel. A bungalow had been reserved for two nights. Sabrina, who had arrived a few hours earlier and was happily ensconced inside and had made arrangements for two days of fun and serious business, The first item on Nat's agenda was to refresh himself with the delicacies he had discovered the night he met Sabrina on Dafuskie Island.
After the union was again established they had a quick meal in the garden under the vines at the Beverly Hills. Their next move was to go straight to Rodeo Drive. Sabrina had Nat an appointment at Ramses to purchase a new wardrobe with a consultant by the name of Eduardo. Sabrina gave Eduardo only one directive. Make Nat look like a millionaire who would fit in well on the Riviera. Cost was a factor--they wanted to spend a lot of money. Three hours later the clothes were selected under Sabrina's watchful eye and slightly more than $18,000 was splurged.
"Eduardo, in three days we'll be arriving in Hong Kong. I want you to call Jingjuang's and give them Nat's measurements. You place the order and make the selections. Nothing but the very best money can buy. We want his monogram and their label on everything from the underwear to the topcoat. Make his wardrobe look tasteful but expensive. We want nothing but the best quality, and it's important that it show."
"You're a pleasure to do business with Madame. I can promise you complete satisfaction is guaranteed. In the future all you need do is call me and I can outfit you and send the clothes anywhere in the world. If you ever need recommendations for tailors in Paris, Monte Carlo, Rome or anywhere else, I'll be happy to make all of the arrangements for you."
"Eduardo, you're most kind and I'm sure we'll come to rely on you and use your expertise and friendship often. Nat, we've other business to attend to. Are you ready to go?"
Eduardo had the doorman secure a cab and the pair was off.
"Nat, I'm excited. I'm going to have to reign myself in and realize this is the most important trip of my life. Having you is making me feel as if I'm on my honeymoon."
Nat smiled. "Anything to oblige"
Sabrina with pent up excitement said, "Let's rent a convertible and have a drink at 'My Father's Office' in Santa Monica and then drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. I know a wonderful restaurant with candle light and the best California wine list on the coast. The Chef can do something with seafood that I haven't found anywhere other than a little restaurant in San Remo, Italy."
Nat spoke to the driver, "Take us to a Hertz office and drop us at the Gold Card entrance."
Within minutes they exited the cab at the Beverly Hills office of Hertz.
"What is the best convertible you have available?"
"We have a red Lamborghini!"
"That should do if you don't have anything sporty. I'm on my honeymoon and big things are expected of me."
"When will you be returning the car, sir?"
"I don't know. I might buy it if I like it."
"Well, I don't think......"
Nat broke in, "I was teasing, I promise. You just say strange things when you're on your honeymoon."
"Please don't do anything that will damage your health. Honeymoons with someone this beautiful could cause over indulgence."
"Listen to what he's saying, Sabrina. You need to lighten up. I don't want a new bride with broken health."
She grinned, "Come on and let's go. This brand of humor may make them change their mind about your sanity and refuse to rent us the car."
After leaving Hertz they headed west on Sunset Boulevard toward Santa Monica with 'My Father's Office' as their destination.
Once seated the waiter looked at Sabrina and asked, "What will you have?"
"A Heineken dark, please.
"What will it be for you, sir?"
"An Anchor Steam on draft."
The waiter slipped away to take care of their orders.
"Nat, what do you want out of life?"
"To be truthful I've had just about everything from life I expected to get. Anything from this point on I consider a bonus. But I never expected a bonus in a package as fancy as you. I have had several books published providing me with royalties adequate for a comfortable retirement. Frankly, I was contemplating my future when I was at Dafuskie. Suddenly a storm comes up and I'm seduced by a beautiful woman who offers me a chance to add a level of excitement to my life that had escaped me to that point."
"That was the easiest seduction a woman ever made. What does it take to turn you on, the changing of a traffic light, or maybe the collecting of lint?"
"I just see sensuousness in areas of life that seem to escape others."
Nat continued. "I've been involved with you for just a few days and I already feel a release and a new view of myself. Being around you is heady business. I'm sure you've found a pattern of life that's impossible to duplicate in any other way. You'll never quit and I can see that I might not either.” You said, 'success breed success'."
Sabrina responded, "If you're asking are jobs easy to get, then I can assure you that a new career is born. You will get a dozen offers a year involving sums that you didn't even know existed. The world is full of multi-millionaires trying to screw each other. They are never able to accomplish their wishes themselves so they need people like you and me who will risk our lives and do their dirty work for them. The reason they can pay so well is that our commission costs them nothing. We're allowed to participate, but they take away the lion's share without doing anything other than furnishing a little capital. They're the ones who really have it made. You're now joining a very small fraternity. There are not but six people in our business that are capable of doing what we can offer. We call ourselves the Fraternity. There are never enough of us to go around. Jobs are waiting until we become available. You and I will not even feel competition from our brothers in the fraternity. They're scattered all over the world and we seldom even come in contact. It might cross your mind as to why we don't renege on our contracts and keep all of the funds we recover when these sums don’t really belong to those that employ us. Two reasons--one is that it's a very easy way to get killed; the other is that our employees know where the jobs are; we don't. Without the high rolling business man we're out of business. I saw your interest heighten when I mentioned getting killed. Believe me, when a lot of money is at stake you can't tell your enemies from your friends. Be careful and play by the rules. Do what you know how to do best and let others do what they know how to do. Lecture is over."
"You're the most beautiful lecturer I've ever seen, and remember I'm an academic. Let's get out of here and go to Santa Barbara."
Nat paid the bill and they returned to the Lamborghini. Soon they were driving north overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Sabrina with wind blowing through her hair, "No matter how many times I drive up the coast of California it's like discovering a new land all over again. I don't think I would ever tire of its rugged beauty."
"It's so different from the east coast. It's easy to love them both. They're just different. The Gulf Stream influences the water temperature and the climate so dramatically on the east coast."
"Do you think if I'd not come along, you'd have made your home in Dafuskie?"
"Very possibly, it offers a great sanctuary to call as a home base. I was getting restless. The academic life had already offered about all it was capable of, and I'm just forty years old. There's no way I could have stayed at Carolina until I was sixty five or seventy. Yet there are others the academic life fits perfectly for a lifetime. They never want to leave. I've a friend who continued to teach until she became so infirm she had to go into a nursing home. Students loved her however. I don't know if she was still a good teacher or not. Maybe she was just part of the institution and people took her class out of respect and love. But that's not for me. At forty years old and wealthy by academic standards I was ready for something else, and you provided it. Makes you wonder about predestination or fate or kismet, whatever you might call it.
He paused and virtually blurted, “Why don't we stay in Santa Barbara tonight?"
"What on earth made you suddenly think of that?"
"I took a look at you and that old familiar feeling flooded over me."
She smiled seductively and said, "I don't have anything to sleep in."
"Somehow you've missed the point. What about a midnight swim?"
"I didn't bring my bathing suit."
"What bathing suit? The one you had on at Dafuskie? I didn't notice you had one on until you took it off. Bathing suits are illegal on midnight swims."
Their teasing was the sure signs of an increasing emotional attachment.
Santa Barbara was wonderful. The meal was everything Sabrina had promised. Nat had never tasted better seafood. The Chef gave them the personal attention characteristic of fine restaurants. As promised after the meal, Nat and Sabrina found their deserted beach and sans swimming apparel frolicked in the surf. They held each other and kissed and petted expending the energy they generated in each other through physical desire. They returned to the hotel and spent the night entwined in each other’s arms. Nat was becoming grateful for the one hour rule. Sex and long physical encounters were bonding them in an inseparable manner. Sabrina was an unusual person. Whatever she was doing at the moment had her full attention and she devoted herself to the activity fully, completely, and passionately. This included the hours of physical enjoyment with Nat. Lovemaking transported Sabrina to a higher level of consciousness. Her body was demanding of her partner but was even more demanding of herself. She was in a state of physical intensity no matter what her role was at the particular moment. She was wonderful and she came down slowly. Ever so slowly, and this extended the lovemaking sessions deliciously. This was a wonderful honeymoon of sorts. Two people spending stolen moments in total happiness.
The next morning they slept late and then drove leisurely back to Los Angeles lunching at a fabulous seafood buffet in Malibu. At noon the following day they boarded Cathay Pacific. The plane flew north toward San Francisco on the great circle route to Hong Kong.
When the plane came within view of San Francisco and turned west over the Pacific, Nat changed the tone of their conversation from light banter between lovers to a more serious tone.
"How do I relate to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you make the decisions and I follow them?"
"Is that what you're used to doing, letting someone else make the decisions and you following them?"
"Then don't change now.
"Will we meet with our employers?
"Do you need to?"
"Is there some disadvantage to getting their opinions?"
"I'm sure if you ask them, they'll give you advice, maybe even instructions. Then you're faced with the dilemma of following their advice or ignoring it. I think that creates stressful situations."
"Sabrina, I'm uncomfortable."
"What do you mean?"
"Somehow I got off on the wrong foot and I can't seem to regain my initiative."
Sabrina sat quietly.
"Every question I ask seems to have such a simple answer to you that it makes me appears to be foolish and inept. Unless I can regain some initiative, I not only won't be any good to you, but I'm likely to bungle matters and get us both killed."
Sabrina asked, "A little male ego problem?"
He answered, "Maybe."
"Would it help if I was to sit here and look at you with big wide eyes and ooh and ah over your every word as if pearls of wisdom were falling from your lips? If that's what you want, I can do it better than anyone."
"No, that's not what I want, but I can't find a place to get started."
"Nat, I can understand your situation very well. My job was to get you on board and I did it the way I know best. I'm also the expert in clandestine operations and they're entirely new to you. I hope you'll learn from me and not let sex roles influence how we relate. As long as we work together there are some things I'll always be able to do better than you. If I didn't assume the lead in those areas, then we would be crippling ourselves before we even start. On the other hand there are things that you will be called on to do that are beyond me. If this were not true I would not have wasted my time and a considerable amount of money finding a partner who complements me so perfectly. We can't allow ourselves to be jealous of each other and compromise our effectiveness through damaged egos. We may argue, we may even fight, but I promise you one thing, you will always have my respect. You're the chosen one Nat. Now focus on the problem at hand. Use that logical intuitive brain of yours and lay out some scenarios we might follow."
"Thanks. I needed that."
They both grinned.
Nat began. "First, we're ruling out drugs as the source of these extraordinarily large sums of money. We're ruling out the ownership of large income producing businesses. We're ruling out syndicates and cartels. We're assuming these vast amounts of money are gained illegally. That means they're being stolen from someone. If the money is being stolen then by all rights the thefts should have been reported to the police. If such reports had been made it would have become public knowledge because of the large sums involved. Assuming the reports have not been made, this leads us to two possible conclusions. One, the owners of these large sums acquired their wealth illegally, therefore are not in a position to report the losses to the police, or two, they don't know they've been robbed. Five hundred billion couldn't have come out of the underworld. All of organized crime would be broke. They also would be placing the largest contract in history out on the perpetrator of the crime. Informers would have had this news in the hands of the authorities long ago and you would know about it. That leaves one logical conclusion. The money has been stolen from people who as yet to detect their losses. We do know that you can't accumulate wealth at the incredible rate of millions of dollars each day which Dr. Sing Pao has without a very complex and hi-tech scheme. You can't steal from individuals silently and in great numbers using old fashioned techniques. It simply can't be done."
"I knew I selected the right man."
"Finding out what Dr. Pao is doing may be easier than putting a stop to it, and a hell of a lot easier than regaining the money. I'm assuming we won't have completed our assignment until we've accomplished all three."
"We need to do it all. To shut Dr. Pao down but leave her as the wealthiest person in the world is unacceptable."
"I take it then that I will go to Shanghai and devise a scheme to get close to Sing Pao. After establishing this relationship I'll find out all of the details of her operation and proceed to shut it down and regain the money."
Sabrina laughed in merriment.
"Nat, you talk as if pulling off that caper were a child's game. You're an American. She's Chinese. There is no way you can move into a relationship that would encourage her to share all of her secrets with you."
Nat responded with mirth, "Why do you have such great confidence in your abilities to dominate men but doubt my abilities with women." Playful triumph showed on his face.
"Are you serious? Do you already have a plan?"
"Of course I do."
"How about sharing it with your partner in crime?"
"Sabrina, don't you think Dr. Pao is pleased with herself for having devised a scheme that enables her to acquire riches faster than anyone else has before."
"I'm sure she is."
"Success does funny things to people. Great triumphs often warp a person’s personality. It would be difficult for someone who has created a financial empire like Sing Pao not to have at least a small God complex. It's more likely that she has a large God complex. Let's assume that Dr. Pao now has palaces, Rolls Royce's, Lear Jets, an army of security people, servants to do her bidding, respect in the corporate board room and all of the other trimmings that go with immense wealth."
"I'm sure she has all of those things."
"Wouldn't you think she'd be satisfied?"
"You'd think so, but I'm sure you're going to assume she isn't."
"Greed begets greed."
"You're going to use this insatiable need for more possessions to get close to her."
"You're exactly right. I'm going to become her closest advisor. I'm going to be the person nearest her who is going to point out new and different ways to use her skills to acquire wealth. Those currently closest to her now are likely so intimidated that they can't offer her real advice. They are always telling her how great she is. In this setting she must respond by having all of the good ideas. I'm going to change that. I'm going to have great ideas she can put in action. I'll be coming from the outside, so our relationship will be different from any of the others with whom she's surrounded herself."
"Are you telling me that you're going to work for her?"
"I'm telling you that I'm going to move in with her if I can."
"You're not shy, are you?"
"My beautiful partner thinks well of herself too, and she's prospered mightily."
"Do you think she'll reveal her criminal activities to you or will you have to uncover them?"
"I think she's far beyond viewing herself as a criminal. In her mind she's just a successful business woman who knows how to make incredible amounts of money. Her closest associates obviously know what she's doing and I intend to become one of her closest associates."
"Don't you think she's smart enough to detect someone trying to infiltrate her inner circle?"
"She's going to invite me in. She's going to compel me to come in."
"I'm amazed at you. You're really serious."
"I am totally serious."
"Tell me quick-- what's going to make you so alluring?"
"You of all people should know. I'm sure you'll never have to go to a marriage counselor. No one will ever have to ask you if anything is wrong with your sex life."
"I'm sure you have something in mind and are just playing with me. I want to know, outside of your great physical prowess, what is going to make you so appealing to Sing Pao."
Nat looked at her directly, "You."
"What do you mean me?"
"She's going take me away from you."
She answered, "Ego."
"We're going to go straight at her ego."
"Why are you so sure it'll work?"
"When we meet her she's going to see a man escorting the most beautiful woman in the world. Now what would be another woman's greatest ego trip?"
Sabrina quickly responded, "To take that man away from the most beautiful woman in the world. I'm saying this modestly of course."
He smiled, "Of course."
"Do you really think I'm the most beautiful woman in the world?" She accompanied the question with her radiant smile.
"You're the most beautiful I've ever seen by a long shot."
She again smiled appreciatively.
"How are we going to get near enough to Sing Pao for her to determine that you're the greatest catch in the world?"
"That's your department. You're the one who has never been turned away at any door. I'm counting on you continuing your record unblemished."
"We'll find her and look so damn good that she'll want us to decorate her parties."
Nat continued, "It appears to me that we're not only going to have to look good but we're going to have to come off as high rollers. How much is available to spread around?"
"Ten to twenty million if need be."
"Sabrina, when we get to Hong Kong we need to get her attention right away."
"She's in Shanghai."
"Does she have a bank in Hong Kong?"
"Yes, a rather small one by Hong Kong standards."
"Good. I'm counting on the fact that Sing Pao wants to become a respected member of the business community and will soon want to be recognized by the world's financial leaders for the legitimate side of her operations. The best way we can help her accomplish her goal is to give her some business. Let's deposit several million in the bank in Hong Kong and immediately become her best customer. She will know our names within the hour even if she's in Shanghai. Where will our money come from?"
"Any where you want it, Bank of America, Chemical, Citibank, NationsBank, Zurich, the Bahamas, You name it, and it’s yours."
"Let's plan to move money in from five or six of the best known banks. That will indicate we've impeccable financial credentials. When we get to Shanghai let's do the same in her bank there. Even Sing Pao will want to become available to her best customer. It's our ticket for admission."
Sabrina agreed, "When we get to Shanghai I'll get busy and find out everything I can about her social schedule. We'll eat in the restaurants she frequents, we'll attend the same parties, we'll go to the same theaters, we'll gamble in the casinos and we'll spend money like crazy. Sing Pao is going to be up against something she hasn't faced for a while. She's going to be placed in situations where she isn't the center of attention. That handsome American with his gorgeous girl friend will have everyone's attention. Her party will no longer have the prettiest people. It will drive her up the wall. Can you imagine a beautiful Chinese woman who also happens to be the richest person in the world no longer being on the front burner in her own town? I'm having fun just thinking about it. We'll make no overtures to her at all. We'll be friendly if the opportunity presents itself but we'll do nothing to indicate any interest in cozying up to her. Any personal contact must come from her. We don't even want her to be able to look back and think that she's been set up. We'll become the social item in Shanghai. No party will be worth attending if this new beautiful pair is not guests. It then becomes just a matter of time before she throws a lavish party and includes us on the guest list."
The stewardess announced that the landing in Hong Kong was imminent. Seat belts had been tightened, trays had been stored and seats were positioned in an upright manner.
Wednesday, June 23 1991
Kowloon, the Peoples Republic of China
The traditional Rolls Royce took them to the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon across the bay from the island of Hong Kong. They made reservations in the hotel dining room which was considered to be the best restaurant in the Hong Kong area. Even though the stewardesses had attended to their every need on Cathay Pacific, they thought a nap would serve them well before spending their first evening enjoying the city. To see Sabrina undress in front of him aroused Nat to an almost unbearable state. He did remember the rule. He was certain that in his fatigued state, bordering on jet lag, he would never be able to sustain the hour of intense sexual activity she required. He followed Sabrina into the bathroom and showered quickly. They both returned immediately to the bedroom and momentarily were asleep. Nat was at peace with the world. He was on an adventure that would require him to perform at a level that had only been a matter of fantasy. Beside him was a woman with whom he was desperately in love. The accommodations were the best in Kowloon. He was a man consumed. There was nothing he would not attempt, there was nothing he could not accomplish, and the world had come to him. He now had assumed a mantle of fatalistic power. He felt ten feet tall and bullet proof. Sleep came easily. He knew that he had found a role in life that suited him perfectly. His mind and his aplomb were the weapons that he would depend upon for the rest of his life. This new feeling was exhilarating.
Thursday, June 23 1991
Kowloon, the Peoples Republic of China
The next morning after breakfast they shopped until 11:00 am on the fascinating streets of Kowloon. They then caught a cab which took them through the tunnel to the island of Hong Kong. Nat directed the driver to take them to the Bank of Shanghai. Sabrina had made an appointment for them to see the President of the Bank of Shanghai to transact some unnamed business. Upon arrival at the bank Nat paid the cab driver and they went directly to the office of the President.
"Good morning Ms. Cabernet and Dr. Turner. My name is Dr. Shu. How can my bank be of service to you?"
Nat responded, "Ms. Cabernet and I are business partners and we're looking for a banking connection in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Knowing you operate in both cities, as well as most other major trading areas in the People's Republic, your bank was attractive to us."
"What kind of business are you and Ms. Cabernet in, if you don't mind my asking," Dr. Shu asked.
"Investments, We buy companies, or at least controlling interest in companies."
"That may be difficult in the People's Republic. The large farms and businesses are owned by the people"
"Are any exceptions made?"
Dr. Shu answered, "Rarely."
Sabrina spoke in measured tones, "Dr. Shu, it's my understanding that the government in the People's Republic is somewhat in need of hard currency."
"All developing nations can use more than is usually available."
Sabrina spoke in a very businesslike tone, "The People's Republic has set up several free trade zones to attract businesses into the mainland and generate hard currency. We're looking for a bank with understanding bankers who can help us make our dreams come true. We had planned to provide the bankers who work with us a personal retainer of one hundred thousand United States dollars. Have we come to the right bank, or should we look elsewhere?"
"Ms. Cabernet, I didn't mean to imply that it was impossible to acquire businesses, just difficult. I would be most happy to help you in any way that I can. I can even be your personal emissary where necessary, and will use my influence on your behalf."
"We'll deposit some working capital in your bank today to show good faith. We'll also be going to Shanghai in a few days and I would appreciate your calling ahead and introducing us. We would like to make the same proposition to the president of the bank there."
"How much do you intend to deposit?"
"Five million US dollars to start with, but there will be more forthcoming when you've located the businesses we're looking for. Price is of no particular limitation if the value is there. We have substantial capital of our own but we also have friends who are willing to join us should we not be able to handle the deal."
Dr. Shu became excited and it showed. "Five million would be wonderful. When will the deposit be made?"
Nat answered, "Today. It would help if your cashier were to come in and prepare the drafts now. We'll need one draft for a million dollars from the Bank of America, one million from Manufacturers Hanover, one million from Citibank, one million from Suisse Bank in Zurich, and one million from The Bank of the Grand Bahamas. These are all numbered accounts and can be accessed directly by computer if your cashier would trust me to use the bank's computer. I don't share passwords. I'm sure you understand."
Dr. Shu said, "Perfectly. We use voice actuated computers. There is no data entry necessary. They're equipped with an advanced artificial intelligence chip developed by the bank's owner. We'll give you a terminal to use and allow you to personally make the transfer. Just speak to the computer and tell it what you want it to do. No additional instructions are necessary.
"Good. You'll have your five million within ten minutes."
The cashier came into the office and Nat followed him back to his office and used a voice actuated computer for the first time. Sabrina stayed behind to outline the businesses in which she and Nat were interested.
"Electronics, if international contracts are in place. We want established businesses, not start ups. We're planning on the People's Republic competing effectively with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia. It is our opinion that the People's Republic has many competitive advantages over these neighbors with the cost of labor being the chief advantage. We want to invest in companies that make electric hand tools. We want toy companies that can gear up quickly to take advantage of new and sometimes short lived opportunities. Let's stay away from heavy industrial type businesses. These businesses require too much capital investment and too much risk."
"I'll organize a sub company just to work for you and Dr. Turner. I've some friends who are particularly adept at finding and analyzing good opportunities. Do you want me to set up an office for you here in the bank building?"
"That would be very convenient. We'll be spending a lot of time here. We're staking our future on the rapid industrialization of the People's Republic. We need a strong base of operation in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and time will only tell where else we will be. As you can see, we're thinking far ahead."
Nat returned and greeted Dr. Shu and Sabrina.
"The five million is here."
"Nat, Dr. Shu is organizing a small company that will be headquartered here in the bank just to find and analyze business opportunities for us."
Nat mused to himself, 'The most beautiful business woman in the world has Dr. Shu eating out of her hand.'
"Very good, did you share with Dr. Shu our requirements and our long range plans?"
"Yes, and he has a lot of ideas of his own that will work to our advantage."
"Dr. Shu, will you make arrangement to do the same thing in Shanghai. I want you and your colleague there to work together. No competition between you. We're all going to make a lot of money and two businesses working with us are even better than one."
Dr. Shu made a proposition, "Why don't we have both locations working as one and split the finders' fees?"
"I think that's a capital idea," Nat said. "But forgive the use of a financial term."
Dr. Shu smiled. "Where are you staying?"
"We're in the Imperial Suite in the Peninsula."
Still the best," observed Dr. Shu.
"I'll have my driver take you back to the Hotel. There'll be no need to take a cab. We're now business associates and you can think of my bank as your headquarters when you're in Hong Kong."
"Please call your bank in Shanghai today. We'll fly up tomorrow and should be able to meet with them on Monday. If you don't mind, would you have them draw the drafts on the Suisse bank in Geneva and the Suisse bank in Lucerne? I think we'll also use The Royal Bank in London and the Royal Bank in Copenhagen. Sabrina, do you prefer to use a different bank in the Bahamas or Cape Town."
"Let's use Cape Town. We need to stir the account."
"Cape Town, Dr. Shu, if that's all right."
Sabrina joined in. "Dr. Shu, we'll be transferring money just after the first of each month. We want the interest figured before we withdraw."
Dr. Shu was totally excited. His eyes were big. Dr. Sing Pao will be excited to hear about the new customers and he was going to pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side working with his new business partners.
Sabrina and Nat excused themselves from the now effervescent Dr. Shu.
The driver met them at the door and safely deposited them in the hands of doorman at the Peninsula in Kowloon.
Nat walked immediately to the Concierge's desk and had him book their flight to Shanghai for the next day. He specified Cathay Pacific.
Sabrina said," I'm going to be on the phone for a while. When we get to Shanghai I want to know Dr. Sing Pao's social schedule for the next three weeks. She's in for the most amazing set of coincidences anyone can have. Her newest and best customer is going to be plainly in view wherever she goes. We agreed we were not going to make any overtures other than to be civil. Any social contact she will have to initiate. We want to do everything possible to keep our relationship from appearing to be a setup."
"What does she look like?"
Sabrina responded, "She's gorgeous! You will have seen few people as striking and sophisticated as she."
"I know one, and she'll blow the doors off of Dr. Pao!"
She smiled, "Blow the doors?"
"One cliché is a good as another."
Sabrina smiled appreciatively.
Immediately after Nat and Sabrina had departed, Dr. Shu made a phone call. Within moments he was on the phone with Dr. Sing Pao.
"Dr. Pao, I've some wonderful news. I had an American couple in my office a few moments ago who selected our bank over all of the others and deposited five million US dollars."
"You'd better wait to see if it arrives before you do any celebrating Dr. Shu. Most often that's talk and it never materializes."
"The money is already here. He had it drafted directly by the computer. He had his own password and the money was deposited in their account instantaneously. Most of the banks were closed. It was the middle of the night in the states. He had direct access. They were the largest, most prestigious banks anywhere. They used five different banks to draw a million each. They want to do the same thing in Shanghai but they're using five different banks other than the ones they used in Honk Kong. We're onto something big. They have very deep pockets."
"What are they going to do with all of this money?"
"They want to buy businesses in our country. She specified electronics, hand tools, and toys. They think the market in the People's Republic will be as large or larger than the Japanese market, and they want to be in on the ground floor. They intend to ingratiate themselves to the government of the People's Republic in order to take advantage of the industrial revolution underway. They want a substantial stake in all that goes on for a long time. We're dealing with a smart pair. We're lucky to have them select us to handle their finances. We'll make money from their accounts for a very long time. I'm reasonably sure that they'll place the accounts of any business we help them locate with one of our banks."
"Tell me about the woman?"
"What do you mean breathtaking?
"With the exception of you Dr. Pao, I've never seen anyone as lovely."
"You're being predictably deferential, Dr. Shu. But I do look forward to seeing her."
Tell me about the man?"
He answered, "Tall, six three or four. I would guess around forty. Well built, must use weights and must run on a strict schedule."
"Is he handsome?"
"Definitely, pure movie star material."
"They must make a striking pair."
"They would dominate any crowd, except, of course, when Dr. Pao is present. Any time you're in the room no one else is noticed."
"We shall see."
"Do you have any more questions I can answer, Dr. Pao?"
"When will they be in my bank in Shanghai?"
He answered, "On Monday at 11:00 am, if Dr. Ling is available."
She assured him, "He'll be available. Find out what flight they'll be on and get back to local security immediately. I don't want them to go anywhere we don't know about. Where are they staying in Hong Kong?"
Dr. Shu answered, "The Peninsula."
"They have good taste. Did they show any interest in me? Did they seem to know I owned the bank?"
"I detected nothing suspicious at all. Strictly business and that includes the woman. She behaved herself as if she were an executive on Wall Street."
Dr. Pao asked, "The computer. Did you have to show him how to use it?"
He answered, "Not at all. He was perfectly at home with it. He's no amateur. I think we're on to the real thing. I really believe you're going to be impressed."
Dr. Pao asked, "You're sure-- now think carefully-- no interest in me at all?"
Dr Shu replied, "Nothing. I think they wanted a banking connection that's well placed in the People's Republic. We can certainly give them that. Anything else?"
"Yes, I want to find out their social schedule while in Shanghai. I think it would be well if I showed up in some of their relaxing moments and see what they're like when they're not in the business office."
Dr. Shu responded, "I'll see that inquiries are made. You're presenting me with an interesting challenge."
Dr. Pao said thoughtfully, "You've presented me with an interesting challenge!"
Wednesday, June 23 1991
Kowloon, the Peoples Republic of China
"Sabrina, let me ask you a question."
"Sure. I'd like to ask you some too."
"What kind of doctor is Dr. Sing Pao? Is she a medical doctor? If she is, I can understand how she's the richest person in the world. My doctor at home must be the second richest person in the world."
Sabrina laughed out loud, "No, she's not a medical doctor. In fact, her degree is from the California Institute of Technology. We will find a very Americanized oriental in Dr. Sing Pao. Her specialty at Cal-Tech was in computer science."
"Computer science? That's interesting. She has a doctoral degree in computer science? She must be very mathematical."
"Orientals seem to have a definite bent for science and mathematics. It must be in their genes. Even more interesting is what she did after she finished her doctorate. She spent two years of post-doc work developing algorithms."
Nat mused, "Algorithms? That sounds like she was developing ways to network computers so they could do parallel processing."
"Apparently, She's an expert and Cal-Tech is one of the leaders in the field."
Nat observed, "She must have gone to Cal-Tech at an early age to have a doctorate in computer science followed by two years post-doctoral work on algorithms. You said that she's just 35 years old now, and we know that she's been in the business of accumulating money for at least three years. I take it there must have been some period of time after she left Cal-Tech before she started amassing great amounts of money."
"There was a period of time before she first appeared on the financial scene, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't already amassing money. We just can't be sure. But our best estimate is that she's been at work three years."
"Sabrina, that's amazing. This is one bright lady."
"Well, that's not all. I only told you about her first post-doctoral work. She spent another two years in post-doctoral work in computer linguistics."
Nat wrinkled his brow, "Computer linguistics? Do you know the subject of her doctoral dissertation?"
"I certainly do. I know everything possible to know about her that can be uncovered by our employers."
"Let me guess. I'll bet it had something to do with networking."
Sabrina answered, "No, actually not. It's apparent she knows a lot about networking computers, but that wasn't the subject of her dissertation. Her dissertation was on computer algorithms."
"Sabrina!" Nat's eyes were big, and excitement was all over his face.
"What? You're on to something. Tell me!"
"Sabrina, she's got the key to the bank. Goddamn it! She's got the key to the bank!"
"What do you mean the key to the bank?"
"I mean she's got the key to the bank. She can walk right in to any bank and have access to anything she wants. She can deposit money. She can withdraw money. She can set up accounts. She can delete accounts. She can change payroll records. She can do any Goddamn thing she wants."
"How can she do that?"
"Sabrina, unless I miss my guess, we have a scenario at Cal-Tech that will absolutely blow your mind. I'm assuming she must have been an absolutely brilliant student in the People's Republic to have been admitted to Cal-Tech. She must have a super intellect. They don't let many students into the computer science program from the United States, let alone from the People's Republic."
Nat continued. "Remember, we're talking about a nation that's not on the friendliest terms with the United States. Yet, she was admitted and worked with the best minds we have in computers. They taught her computer networking, and then she went on to write her doctoral dissertation in algorithms, followed by two years post-doctoral work in algorithms, then two years post-doctoral work in computer linguistics. That's not a usual course of study. In fact, that's a very unusual course of study, and yet, at Cal-Tech, a very American-type institution, we have a Chinese National working in our most advanced field. Then she deviates into a very specialized field."
"You still haven't told me what makes you think that she has a key to the bank. I can see by your face that you’re excited. You can barely hold it in."
"I'm not only excited; it's incredible what this woman is on to. It's going to be a hell of a job to put a stop to it. Can you imagine being able to go into any bank in the world and withdraw money from anybody's account? Can you imagine going into any bank in the world and setting up a new account? Can you imagine going into any bank in the world and transferring money from one account to another? Can you imagine the ability to transfer money from account to account and then erase those accounts as if they never existed? She has the ability to absolutely defusing any kind of audit trail? Can you imagine going into any bank in the world and opening up an account without writing your name or your address? Can you imagine taking as much money out of a bank as you want and moving it to another bank without asking any body's permission?"
Now Sabrina's face was flushed with excitement. "Nat, you're talking about a hacker, a super hacker, someone who can break into computer networks and roam around at will."
"That's exactly what I'm talking about. A super hacker! Note carefully, Sabrina, that I said hacker and not hooker."
"Nat, get your mind back on computers and off sex."
"It's hard to sit here and look at you and not think of sex. I'm surprised I can talk to you about computers at all. Do you mind turning out all the lights and let me talk to you in the darkness? I think I could concentrate better."
"Nat, be serious. You're on to something, and it's the breakthrough we've needed. But I still don't understand. Hacking is not an easy task. I can see breaking into networks. We know hackers have done that for years, but there's no way that someone could break into networks and banks all over the world. It takes hours and hours, probably even days and weeks before anyone is ever successful in breaking into any kind of secure network. And the major banks have very secure networks. They're just loaded with passwords. You'd have to break password after password after password."
"You're right about the difficulty of it. That's why no one had ever thought to do this before. But think with me a moment. I want us to speculate and put this together. First of all, our beautiful, young Chinese lady, who is one of the more brilliant academicians to come out of the People's Republic to an American university in a long time, absolutely wows her professor with her academic prowess. Now, I know for a fact that as an academic, if you find a terrific student, it's a great turn-on. You really want to take a student absolutely as far as he or she can go. As you know, Orientals have a deferential way, and can ingratiate themselves with people easily, particularly in the United States because they're so polite and grateful."
Nat frowned and looked at the line joining the wall and the ceiling, regained his concentration and continued with his speculation. "Let's assume the professors are enamored with her because of her intelligence and academic potential. Now add another interesting ingredient- beauty. You said she's a knockout. What more could a professor ask for than a student who was brilliant, gorgeous and possessing Oriental ways that make you think she's the most grateful person in the world for anything you do or teach her. We can't even rule out the fact that in her deference to her learned professors she might have gone to bed with some of them. That is often done, you know. Nevertheless, she has the combination that would make the learned professors at Cal-Tech anoint her as one of their finest. She would have access to the largest computers, she would have individual instruction and private time with the professors. I'm sure there's little that anyone at Cal-Tech knew that didn't end up in Dr. Sing Pao's beautiful mind."
"I'm sure you're describing the scenario just as it happened. Do you want me to have our people check at Cal-Tech and see if she was their brightest student?"
"Yes, I think that would help. I would also like to know the professors with whom she studied and how respected they were in their fields. No, that's ridiculous. Anyone teaching at Cal-Tech is going to at the top of their field. That's a waste of time. Do find out, however, their academic specialty because it will confirm where I think this trail is leading us. I'm also interested in acquiring a copy of her dissertation. I'm sure they have that at the publishing office at Cal-Tech. But if not, it's on microfilm in the Library of Congress. Either way you let's get it. Hard copy if you can, I don't want to read a dissertation in microfiche. It's too hard on my eyes."
"I'll make inquiries right away. We should get a copy within a few days. What about articles? Do you want to look at articles she might have written?"
"Yes. The articles may be as interesting as her dissertation. Be sure you search for co-authorship and even contributing students. These references may be in the preface to articles. It's not at all unusual in graduate school for professors to actually publish a work done by their doctoral and post-doctoral students. They do more editing than research. So let's look at anything we can lay our hands on. We'll see if a pattern develops. I think we'll be confirming that she's uncovered a way to break into computers anytime she wants to."
"Nat, the time frame bothers me. It's not easy to break into secure computers. When you access a bank's internal network and you'll be confronted with the need for a password. Think of the incredible amount of time it would take to break through each and every password. It just has to be a time consuming and a laborious task. The time frame for accumulating her money just doesn't allow a young Chinese woman, no matter how brilliant, to sit down and go through tens of thousands of these carefully guarded and locked doors."
"You have an interesting point, but we know she has five hundred billion dollars. That's a fact. How did she get it? Don't you think it was her academic training that let her discover these possibilities?"
"I'm sure your right, but its mind boggling."
"Let's speculate on how she went about it. First of all, let's assume while she was at Cal-Tech she met a young Chinese student as brilliant or nearly as brilliant as she. Let's assume that the student was working with her and enamored of her beauty, became her lackey. Something like I've become for you."
"Nat, we're talking business now. You don't have to make these aside remarks to get my attention. You act as if you're a love-starved teenager. Frankly, you're already getting about all the passion I have to give. How many hours a day do I have to spend in bed with you to get you to talk about something other than sex?"
"Well, there're twenty-four hours, and I figure I need four hours sleep."
"Nat, get back to Dr. Pao. You're beginning to brag too much. You know I have a way to knock you out cold when I tire of your incessant conversation."
She gave him that radiant smile that had a way of weakening his bones. "Now, get back to business."
"OK, but you do make my mind wander at times. Let me get back to the young Chinese student or maybe an American student. Who knows? Nevertheless, let's assume that she now has someone working with her that she dominates through her brilliance and beauty. She's probably even taking him to bed, or he may be willing to do anything for her just to maintain the relationship. Once she finds a young man who will do her bidding, she probably looks for others. No telling how many. She may not have been working by herself. All of her new team would be experts on networking. When you have access to the network, you have access to the computer. You are connected to all the computers in the work that are networked."
Nat continued. "Computer networks are designed to let one computer talk to another. Protection from unwanted entry comes from the passwords that you must have to get into the network. We know that any network can be breached if someone has the skill and the patience to do so. However, this wasn't the point that made me so excited. When I said she had the key to the bank, I really meant it. I can see Dr. Pao assembling a network of young Orientals, probably Chinese, or anyone who is willing to work. She is great friends with the faculty. She's their finest student. She's female. She's beautiful, and they love to work with her. She's taught the fundamentals and intricacies by the best minds at the university. She now knows everything that can possibly be gleaned about the ability of one computer to talk to another. With this knowledge on networking she writes her doctoral dissertation on algorithms. That was very interesting to me. An algorithm would allow her to put the power of many computers together working as parallel processors. With parallel processing of many computers, this young doctoral student has become an expert on the most powerful tool known to man. She not only knows networking, but she knows how to write algorithms to increase the power of computers in a geometric progression."
Nat raced on. "She's way ahead of her time. She's become the leading authority in the field. She writes a doctoral dissertation, not on some minor computer problem, but on algorithms, the very latest and powerful field in computer science. Then you mentioned an additional two years of post-doctoral work in algorithms. She not only has a degree in computer science with this specialty, but she's so entranced with the whole field that she continues to work one-on-one with the universities best minds. Then you put the last piece of the puzzle into place, and truly, you're right, it blew my mind. She spent two additional years of post-doctoral work in linguistics, computer linguistics. Dr. Pao is probably the world's leading authority on using the power of computers to decipher language. All language, non-sense syllables, numbers, ASCII symbols. It can be anything and it's working at the speed of light. She can now use super computers to solve her problems. This woman has written an algorithm that will break any password on any computer. She can now walk through all of the so-called barred gates as easily as a knife cutting through warm butter."
Sabrina shook her head from side to side and softly said, "That's amazing, absolutely amazing."
"The possibilities are unlimited. I'll tell you one thing. Can you imagine being a criminal and robbing a bank when there's no evidence?"
"What do you mean no evidence? She's withdrawing the money isn't she?"
"Yes, she's withdrawing it, but using the computer to keep track. Let's assume she sets up ten accounts. She then writes a computer program to rake all of the inactive accounts that are more than a year old, placing the money in one of her ten accounts in the bank at the moment. But all the money from the inactive accounts is now in accounts that she entered into the system herself. Now the intriguing thing about setting up her own accounts is that no one has filled out any form. She has taken dollars out of one account and placed it in another but there is no currency involved. She is robbing a bank, but she didn't have to carry a sack into the bank. She didn't have to put a mask on. None of this is necessary. This woman has access to every dollar in the bank if she wants it. What she must do is find the money in places where its absence is not likely to be detected readily. All she's doing is transferring electronic digits from one account to another account. And the second account is a bogus account to begin with."
"Is it really that easy once you're inside the computer?"
"It's not necessarily easy, but we must remember, we're talking about a computer expert who can write algorithms. She's mechanized difficult tasks in a way that lets the computer do the work. Once her computer breaks into the banking network, she can start moving money around surreptitiously. The fruits in that bank are totally available to her. Now the second step. Let's assume that she's raked all of the inactive accounts in the bank. She's moved them into the ten accounts she created. She now creates a hundred new accounts in the bank. She takes some percentage, perhaps ten percent of the money in the original ten accounts and divides that among the hundred accounts. The money that was original stolen is now scattered among a hundred accounts. The original ten are erased from the computer. There is no audit trail. She can now transfer this money into hundreds of banks and thousands of accounts mixing the money each time. All of this is preprogrammed and done in less than a second. Each time the transfers are made the previous account numbers are removed from the computer. The possibilities are geometrical and the money is untraceable. She can do all of this because of her algorithm that gives her access to any bank."
Nat asked, "Can you imagine the most powerful computers in the world working twenty-four hours a day, breaking into banks and robbing them blind and walking away with their money without any physical evidence whatsoever? There're no fingerprints, no big canvas bags with dollars signs written on the side, no mask, no guns, no threat of physical harm, and yet, it's the greatest heist in history. She certainly doesn't have to blow the doors off an armored truck. She has a money machine. It appears that her only worry is how long this can go one before the banks begin to miss the money. Sooner or later, some of those inactive accounts will become active, and there's not going to be any money in them. And there's going to be a great scandal. On the other hand, she's fairly safe if she's limited herself to inactive accounts. They make up only a small percentage of the total deposits. Banks don't want any trouble. For a long time they'll consider the discrepancy in the accounts simply a bank error which they can make good by covering the deposits. When they do find that the inactive accounts were robbed of their funds, they immediately will look for larcenous bank employees."
"They would look internally."
"Yes, no one's going to have any idea that there's a scam going on. They'll think that an employee or employees in bank are stealing. Their confidence in passwords is so great that it wouldn't even occur to them that someone outside of the bank would be taking their money. That in itself brings up another interesting possibility. She could be taking a portion of the money and placing it in the bank president's account, the cashier's account, or the head of accounting's account. All of the investigation would be now focused internally to see if these people are in a conspiracy. On second thought it might be better if she kept it out of the president's account. You need to have someone with a high position to order the investigation. There would be a serious scandal, but the last thing the bank would want to do was let anyone outside of their walls know they're having a problem with dishonesty or embezzlement. While they are accusing each other, Dr. Pao has taken the money and run. The thought of the scheme is incredible. And to think a young Chinese woman conceived it all doing honest doctoral work."
"Nat, you think like Dr. Pao. You'd make a great criminal. I don't think there's any doubt that this is what she's doing. I'll get the dissertations. I'll get the articles she's published. But what are you going to do with them? I don't think you have to prove this is the tack she's taken. I'm not sure there's any other way that she could have accumulated the vast amounts of funds in such a short time. There's no question in my mind. You've solved it."
"Well, Sabrina, I want the dissertations and the articles for another reason."
"I want to learn to do it myself."
"You're going to start stealing from banks?"
"No, I'm not going to steal from a bank. I'm going to take the money away from Dr. Pao. I want to find out how to do it. I think we can uncover the same secret she uncovered. Then we can invade her computers, collapse the system and walk away with five hundred billion dollars. Do you think our employers would be happy with that?"
"I'm sure they'd lose it in their pants."
"It looks to me as if we have two jobs now. One is to get close enough to Dr. Pao to find out where her computers are, and the other is to see if we can write our own algorithms that will break into her computers and take the money away from her."
"That's not going to be easy, but its one hell of a challenge. I don't believe I've been this excited in a long time. Do you think she backs everything up on tape?"
"I'm sure she does but I would suspect she has multiple computers that are networked together in various locations for safety. When a transaction is made in one computer, it copies it into a second computer or a third computer or a fourth computer. When you're talking about five to six hundred billion dollars, you can afford all the computers you want, and you'll be very careful that you don't lose your records. If we could ever get into her computer, we could find the list of accounts in which she has stored her money. We need this list of account numbers and locations to rake her accounts and walk away with her money. Wouldn't that be interesting! Wouldn't you like to be with her the morning she woke up and found out the richest woman in the world was now broke?"
"Nat, this calls for a celebration."
"Let's celebrate," he said with an exaggerated smile on his face.
"Nat, there is more than one way to celebrate," she said with mock exasperation."
"Oh, there is. I don't seem to think of any."
"What did you have in mind?"
Sabrina answered, "Dinner. We will build up to your celebration slowly."
Wednesday, June 24 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
When their plane landed in Shanghai, they were greeted by a small delegation from the Bank of Shanghai. The bank was giving them the red carpet treatment, reserved for valued customers. The chief public relations official representing Dr. Pao escorted Sabrina and Nat through customs and directed them to a quietly waiting Mercedes S Series limousine. The ride to the center of town took thirty minutes. When the distinctive Mercedes arrived at the door of the Portma Hotel in the Shanghai Centre, the doorman and luggage handlers were ready. Bypassing the customary signatures at the front desk, Sabrina and Nat were taken directly to the elevators and whisked to the top floor. With a great flourish, all of the amenities of their suite were noted, and special services explained. Good-bys were then exchanged, and Sabrina and Nat were left alone in the large suite looking the Huangpu River, on the waterfront of Shanghai.
"Nat, come out on the balcony with me. The view is magnificent."
"Don't you want me to go ahead unpack our bags?"
"Not now. This view is too good not to enjoy it in the first moments of our visit to Shanghai."
Nat dutifully walked out on the balcony and put his arm around Sabrina's shoulder. They quietly shared the spectacular view.
Then Sabrina spoke "Nat, I'm going over to the newspaper offices and talk with the social editor."
"What are you going over there to do?"
"Dr. Pao has to be the hottest social item in Shanghai. I want to see what the social editor can tell us about her activities."
"Why don't you just call the editor? I'm sure you can learn as much over the phone as you can by a personal visit."
"I'd rather talk to her personally. I can find out more."
"Then while you're at the newspaper, I'm going to get a feel for the city."
They agreed to meet back at the hotel at six in the evening, and both departed to perform their separate tasks.
When Nat was through with his short tour of downtown Shanghai, he stopped by the bar in the lobby and enjoyed a Johnny Walker Black on the rocks. At six he returned to the suite and found that Sabrina was still away. At six-thirty, he heard the key in the door, and Sabrina had returned.
"Did you have a good afternoon?"
"Very productive, I think."
Nat fixed both of them a drink and they walked out on the balcony to once again enjoy the view.
"Were you able to find the person you needed at the newspaper?"
"Yes, and she was quite helpful."
"Is Dr. Pao the celebrity we expected?"
"Yes, she really is. The society editor was happy to talk with me about her. She's the number one social item in Shanghai, and perhaps even east China."
"This country is hurting for hard currency, so the richest person in the world has to be a celebrity and a favorite with government officials."
"You're right there. The society editor talked about her in nothing but glowing terms. She kept phrasing her comments in terms of the beautiful Dr. Pao, the exquisite Dr. Pao. The information we have about her beauty is not exaggerated."
"Is she a secretive person?"
Sabrina answered, "No, at least not from a social point of view. She visits all the fashionable restaurants. Dr. Pao is enjoying the prestige of being the city's new leading citizen."
"That surprises me. You'd think that someone who had come into great wealth from illegal sources would be more circumspect."
"Well, remember, we're in the city of pirates. Ill-gained wealth in Shanghai has never been an embarrassment. I'm certain that not even an eyebrow is raised when it comes to discussing the source of one's wealth."
"Does she follow any routine in her selection of restaurants?"
"Not really a routine, but I did get a list of restaurants she frequents. It's apparent she eats out a lot and is invited to many social functions around the city."
"Are you going to use your inventive ways to get us invited to some of these events?" he asked with a smile.
"You bet your life I am."
"Do you have any plans for us this evening? Can we make the night productive?"
"Yes, I already have reservations."
Nat asked, "Oh, really? Where did you make them?"
"The Gong DE Ling, one of the best in Shanghai. Dr. Pao will be there tonight.
"Is this a coincidence?"
Sabrina answered, "Not at all. You know I don't believe in coincidence. I asked the social editor to call the restaurants that Dr. Pao frequents. She was delighted to help. I told her quite frankly that I was from the United States and was very interested in meeting Dr. Pao, and I thought that it could best be done socially. A pretty trusting face such as mine elicits much support. She picked up the phone and began to call the restaurants she had named. The third restaurant she called confirmed that Dr. Pao had a reservation for tonight. She booked us into the same restaurant, arriving thirty minutes later than Dr. Pao. We'll not be eating until 10:00 tonight. I thought it was best that we make something of a grand entrance. With the exception of the party of Dr. Pao, we're going to be the most glamorous guests they have. I can't wait to get started. We're going to make a dashing couple. I doubt we'll have to bump into Dr. Pao more than a time or two before she's willing to strike up a conversation."
"I love a woman with such great confidence."
"When you see the dress I'm wearing tonight, and when I walk in on the arm of the handsomest man in Shanghai, that's a package Dr. Pao is not going to be able to resist. She will want to meet us. A person with social ambitions wants decorate her parties with the prettiest people around."
Nat and Sabrina left the balcony and returned to the main salon of the suite. They decided to take a nap and bathe before dressing for the evening. After awakening, they adjourned to separate dressing rooms. Nat was busily assembling his evening’s attire when he heard Sabrina's voice from the doorway, "Do you mind taking a look at me?"
"I never mind taking a look at you."
Nat turned and looked at Sabrina filling the doorway in black and white attire. She was devastating. A band of white started at her right shoulder and swept down to her left hip. The neckline was a deep V, revealing the majority of Sabrina's ample bosom. The black band starting again at the right shoulder and supporting the white stripe down to the hem line was nothing but a series of beautiful curves, clinging closely to Sabrina's body. This ravishing cocktail dress was highlighted by sequins. To give Nat some idea of how she would look as she walked through the restaurant, she wiggled her hips slowly two or three times. The movement in the dress obviously was going to have the desired effect. Nat, who viewed himself as sophisticated, was having difficulty getting used to the beauty of his new-found associate. Dr. Pao was going to be in for a surprise tonight. Nat wasn't unaware of his own handsomeness and good looks, wrapped in his six-foot three, two hundred pound athletic frame. He was the perfect counterpoint for the wonderful lady he was going to be escorting.
Shortly after 9:30 they left the room and descended in the elevator. Upon their exit from the lift, Nat could feel the ripple that moved through the crowded lobby as they gracefully swept toward the main door of the hotel. The doorman saw them coming and ushered them into a waiting limousine, thanking Nat profusely for his generous tip. Shortly before 10:00 they arrived at the Gong DE Ling restaurant. The maitre d' at this exclusive Shanghai restaurant was accustomed to greeting royalty and people of high rank. He was unflappable. But even a person with such wide experience, possessing the sophistication and charm commonly associated with great Maitre D’hôtel’s was taken aback at the picture presented by this new couple from the United States. He was truly excited as he took them to their reserved table. Nat was already learning that Sabrina had this effect on men.
When they arrived at their reserved table, the maitre d' changed his mind. Upon impulse, he decided this table wasn't fine enough for Sabrina and Nat. He moved the reserved sign from their table to the table in the center of the room. He removed the reserved sign that was on the table awaiting other expected guests. After the switch was quickly made, Nat and Sabrina were escorted to the table and seated in finely upholstered chairs. The Maitre D’hôtel now wanted Sabrina and Nat to be seen by all the guests dining in the restaurant. They were suddenly his show piece. This did not go unnoticed by Dr. Pao, who had arrived with her party some thirty minutes earlier. The Maitre D' immediately ordered the cocktail waiter to Nat and Sabrina's table. Drink orders were taken, and the maitre d' accompanied the waiter to the bar to see that their drinks were mixed first and served promptly. He encouraged the American pair to call upon him if he could be of any service whatsoever during the evening. The desired effect was there. Nat and Sabrina were now making their grand entrance into the society of Shanghai at this very exclusive, but public restaurant. After the drinks were served and enjoyed, the head waiter at the Gong DE Ling was assigned to their table. With a great flourish, and from memory, he listed the wonderful specialties available to be created by the chef that evening.
Nat looked the head waiter directly in the eye and said, "This is a special evening. This is our first night in Shanghai, and this city is going to be our home. I want this to be a celebration. To do this, I need to talk with the chef personally. But first could you send the wine steward over to help us with our selections."
Great delight showed on the waiter's face. This was going to be a special evening for the restaurant. Within moments the wine steward was at the side of their table.
"I hope our waiter told you that this is a special night. I would like for you to select a wine for us to enjoy with each course. Treat us as if we were in your home."
The wine steward responded by identifying varieties for complementing various dishes.
When the chef arrived at their table, Nat spoke to him, "We have just arrived in Shanghai today, and we wanted to use tonight celebrate a new venture. Your restaurant was highly recommended. I hope you'll be kind enough to prepare a special dinner to celebrate the occasion. I want to put this lovely lady and me in your hands to experience a culinary treat we will not forget. Time is of no consequence. We're here simply to enjoy the evening. Please tell your staff to do their very best, and they will be amply rewarded."
"Sir, it's not often that we get such a generous request. I assure you I'll use my humble talents to their fullest to satisfy you and the beautiful lady."
"I've already asked the wine steward to work with you in matching the wines to each course. We want a good sample of your cellar."
"The Peking duck is our specialty, and that will be the main course. I have specialties in the appetizers that will be prepared according to seldom used recipes. The soup, of course, takes a much longer time to prepare, so I'll use my favorite to whet your appetite. In the meantime, I'll see that canapés are served and the wines brought to the appropriate temperature."
The conversations with the staff focused attention on the center table. Within a few minutes Dr. Pao summoned the maitre d' to her table.
She commented, "I see you have a striking addition to your guests tonight at the Gong DE Ling, would it be appropriate for you to share with me the names of the attractive couple?"
Even with Dr. Pao very cool inquiry, the maitre d' had difficulty containing his enthusiasm when he indicated who the couple was.
Dr. Pao said, "Oh, they're new customers of mine. I see they are creating quite a stir in the restaurant."
The attention being focused on Nat and Sabrina nettled Dr. Pao, but her own self-assuredness allowed her to regain control of her ego. She returned her attention to her own party, but carefully kept an eye on the couple enjoying dinner in the center of the room. At 11:30, Dr. Pao's dinner party was reaching its conclusion. She, once again, summoned the maitre d' to make a request.
"Yes, Dr. Pao, may I be of assistance?"
"Kung Lu, do you still have any of the diamond encrusted brooches prepared for your anniversary celebration?"
"Yes, there're three left. Only fifteen were struck to commemorate the happy event. You honored us by accepting one as a gift at the time of the celebration."
"Would you secure one and bring it to me? I would like to prepare a note and have you present it with the brooch to the beautiful American woman who has joined us in your restaurant tonight. I would also like a box of your finest Cuban cigars presented to her handsome escort. You, of course, will add this to my bill."
"Dr. Pao, I wouldn't hear of it. The fact that you have chosen us as one of your favorite restaurants is a significant honor. You cannot imagine how much business it brings us from customers hoping they might be lucky enough to dine the same evening that you join us for dinner. The brooch and the cigars will be given from you as a small token of our appreciation for your patronage."
Some fifteen minutes later, the maitre d' was back with the brooch carefully wrapped in a beautiful Chinese designed paper with an exquisite hand painted card already attached, ready for an appropriate message. A larger package containing the cigars was also ready and carefully wrapped in a beautiful masculine-looking paper with a matching card ready for an appropriate note. Dr. Pao busied herself writing a personal note to both Sabrina and Nat. Upon completion of the note, Dr. Pao handed the two packages to the maitre d' for delivery.
When he arrived at Nat and Sabrina's table, he said, "Beautiful lady and handsome gentleman, I have gifts for each of you. While I would be proud to present them as tokens of my appreciation for your patronage, I must humbly admit that these gifts are from the esteemed Dr. Pao, one of our most treasured customers. She's the beautiful lady seated at the corner table with the large party."
Sabrina thanked him with her radiant smile and dancing eyes. She read the note aloud to Nat, “Please accept this small gift as a way of introducing myself to the lovely couple who are visiting in our city. Knowing that we're becoming business associates I want to express to you my genuine pleasure in offering the services of our bank and staff to you in your business enterprises. I hope that our relationship will be a long one in a warm Chinese tradition. You will like our city. You will like our country. You will like our bank, Sincerely, Dr. Sing Pao."
Nat and Sabrina gave each other a small but knowing look.
Nat then enthusiastically said, "Let me read my note to you."
He quoted, "Sir, a gift for a gentleman is not easily found in a restaurant. The owners and their staff, however, were kind enough to do the best they could without notice. I do hope that this small token will bring you many hours of enjoyment. You're a handsome man and are graced by a beautiful lady. I'm looking forward to our business association and offer both of you whatever convenience my bank and its staff can provide. May your days be long and happy ones?"
He concluded by saying "It's signed, Dr. Sing Pao."
Sabrina and Nat both turned to Dr. Pao and smiled across the room delightedly. They then busied themselves to opening their recently acquired gifts. Nat, in traditional gentlemanly fashion, allowed Sabrina to inspect her gift first. The paper was removed carefully and easily. She then removed the lid from the ivory box, and there to her delight was a beautiful brooch in the shape of the logo of Gong DE Ling. She smiled as she retrieved it from the box and held it to her bosom. She then turned and held it up for the tables nearest her to see. By this time, every eye in the restaurant was glued on Sabrina, and they too were able to enjoy the beautiful piece of jewelry given by Dr. Pao. Sabrina then bowed graciously in the direction of Dr. Pao, showing her genuine appreciation and enjoyment of the jewelry.
After appropriate attention was given the brooch, Nat opened his gift. He was careful in the way he treated the paper, but his success wasn't the same as Sabrina's. When Nat realized he was now the possessor of the best cigars Cuba could provide, a delighted grin spread across his face. He broke the seal and withdrew one of the carefully wrapped orbs and held it up for a practiced to observe. He twisted the cylinder for 360 degrees, and then slowly brought it to his nose, allowing him to enjoy the wonderful deep aroma. He replaced the cigar in the box with its siblings and gave a gallant solute in the direction of Dr. Pao. He then asked the maitre d' for a notepad, and within moments, Kung Lu had returned with something on which Nat could write appropriate thanks. Nat prepared a note, "Beautiful lady, your gifts are wonderful. I cannot imagine being a stranger in a city and be greeted with such hospitality. It would please us very much is we could approach your table and express our sincere gratitude to you personally." And he signed it, "Nat."
Kung Lu carefully took the note without so much as a glance in his its direction, assuring its privacy, and delivered it with great aplomb to Dr. Pao. She read the note carefully and spoke quickly but cordially to Kung Lu. He immediately returned to the center table, and invited Sabrina and Nat to follow him.
"Dr. Pao, it is with great pleasure that I am allowed to introduce to you new friends of Gong DE Ling restaurant."
He then turned and looked at Nat and Sabrina who were standing comfortably close together with their sides touching in an affectionate way.
"Let me assure our new friends that they're now becoming acquainted with the most beautiful and gracious lady in all of the People's Republic of China. It is my sincere hope that your friendship will be immediate and last all of your days, and may they be considerable."
"Will you join me for an after dinner drink. My party is now leaving, and it will take only a moment or two to have the table cleared and freshly prepared."
With this cue, Dr. Pao's dinner party stood up, expressed sincere appreciation for being invited to dine at the lovely restaurant with the beautiful Chinese lady. They departed quickly but unhurriedly. Immediately upon departure, the wait staff removed everything from the table, and replaced it with fresh linen and flowers. When everything was in readiness, Nat and Sabrina were invited back to Dr. Pao table to be seated.
Dr. Pao appropriately started the conversation. "I talked with Dr. Shu yesterday about your business relationship with our bank. I was delighted to have such a forthright and ambitious new customer. As you know, we bankers are always looking for ways to make money, and it seems as if your business acumen will make considerable profit for both of us."
Nat responded, "We hope so. The best business deal is one where both parties are satisfied and the relationship is mutually beneficial. We could have used larger and more prestigious banks, but we chose yours."
Dr. Pao smiled approvingly.
Nat continued, "In choosing your bank, we were selfish. We wanted a bank with a staff that was influential enough to help us accomplish our rather unusual goal. After our investigation, we found there was no one more influential in the People's Republic than Dr. Sing Pao. You cannot imagine our feeling of good fortune to meet you on our first night in Shanghai. This is fortuitous, indeed. I hope it's a good omen of a relationship that might follow."
Sabrina supported Nat. "Your hospitality and your gifts are overwhelming, but they're indicative of the reputation that precedes you. We're very interested in making investments in the People's Republic. We think it's quite possible, with your help, that we can serve your country well. Hopefully this will place us in a position to work with you and your government to become strong players in your overseas markets. But business can wait. We've heard that you were a beautiful woman, but the compliment does not do you proper justice. You are simply breath-taking."
Dr. Pao was obviously pleased to receive such a judgment from someone like Sabrina. This made the compliment all the more precious.
Dr. Pao turned to the one member of her dinner party that had remained and said, "I would like for you to meet Queeling. She is my vice-president, my executive assistant, my right hand and my best friend. I call her Q. It seems to fit her personality."
Queeling bowed her head slightly and deferentially took Sabrina's hand and expressed the greatest pleasure in making her acquaintance. While the introduction to Sabrina was taking place Nat evaluated Queeling. He found her to be beautiful to the degree of being in the same special category of Sabrina and Dr. Pao. She was in her early to mid thirties and her every demeanor suggested class and sophistication. These two Chinese ladies made a dynamite package.
Queeling turned to Nat and bowed her head in the same deferential way and took Nat's hand. She then looked up and made full eye contact with Nat and a sensation went through his body like an electric shock. The sensuousness of Queeling's direct look was something for which he was not prepared. He had never seen a woman give herself to a man in one quick look as Queeling did to him. This exchange was apparently unnoticed by Sabrina and Dr. Pao. Queeling then expressed the greatest pleasure in making his acquaintance as she had Sabrina's
For the next hour and a half, Sabrina, Nat and Dr. Pao talked warmly, becoming acquainted.
Wednesday, June 26 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
At 11:00, Sabrina and Nat arrived at the offices of Dr. Ling, the president of the Bank of Shanghai. They were immediately ushered into his private office by his secretary.
"I'm delighted to meet you Ms. Cabernet and Dr. Turner. Dr. Shu called and said I was in for a treat. I hope you've found your accommodations comfortable."
Nat replied, "They're wonderful, but to tell you the truth, we haven't been in the suite long enough to enjoy them very much. But we plan to rectify that after we get our business underway."
Dr. Ling turned to Sabrina. "I would offer you a guide for a shopping spree in Shanghai, but there's something about your demeanor that tells me you're not here to shop. You're here for business, and shopping would be secondary."
"You're right, Dr. Ling. Nat and I are business partners, and we find we're more successful when both of us are at work. That doesn't mean we don't take time to relax. We really do. One of those rare times was Saturday night. It was a delightful coincidence to have dinner in the same restaurant as Dr. Pao. She gave us both thoughtful gifts. Has she talked to you about our meeting?"
"She certainly has. I understand you have one of the brooches of Gong DE Ling restaurant. They're rather valuable. Only fifteen were made and they were crafted by the best jewelry designer in the People’s Republic. She must have taken a liking to you very quickly. That's unusual for Dr. Pao."
"Well, we can't speak for Dr. Pao, but we certainly liked her. She's most charming, very quick and astute."
"You know she was educated in the United States. She attended the California Institute of Technology and is quite a computer expert. As a matter of fact all twelve of the presidents of the Bank of Shanghai have doctorates from Cal Tech. We were all in school with Dr. Pao. Twelve others from Cal Tech manage the operation in Xi’an."
Sabrina's eyebrows arched in surprise. "A computer expert? She didn't mention computers at all when we were talking last night. Nat and she should get along well. He's also quite an authority on computers. Is she still involved in the field?"
"Oh, very involved. Our banks each have electronics that would amaze you. I will demonstrate them to you and Dr. Turner sometime if you'd like it."
"I certainly would."
"Dr. Pao now has twelve banks. Each is connected through an elaborate computer network. We use optical fiber. Every operation in the bank has been automated. Electronic scanning is also used, and every record that would have required paper is stored in a central computer instead. It's a matter of pride to Dr. Pao that none of our employees uses a pen or pencil. All entries are made by voice or electronic scanning."
"You enter financial documents into your computer by voice?"
"Oh, yes. That's standard in our bank. The process works well. It's really amazing, and Dr. Pao herself was the developer of the voice-actuated computers. However, if a printed document arrives at the bank it's scanned electronically. Optical character recognition has been developed to a high state by Dr. Pao and her staff. There's seldom an error recorded in anything electronically scanned by Dr. Pao's software. There is redundancy in all of her software, and it's self-checking. Errors are very, very rare, and the computer detects them right away and makes immediate correction. I would dare say the Bank of Shanghai has the most accurate records of any bank in all of the world."
Nat had become very interested at this point. "Do you make all monetary transfers through voice activation?"
"Oh yes. When you deposit money in the bank of Shanghai, we simply speak to the computer, and the account is opened, and the money is deposited. The computer confirms the reaction orally. I almost find myself acting as if the computer were human. You carry on personal conversations with it. When you need to get into the data base for financial information on an individual sitting in your office, you simply speak to the computer and ask it a question. The computer processes the inquiry and answers you immediately. All the information garnered on you to open up an account at our bank in Hong Kong has been transferred through optical fiber to our bank here in Shanghai. Would you like to see a demonstration?"
"I'm absolutely fascinated."
Dr. Ling turned to the computer and said, "Do we have an account for Ms. Sabrina Cabernet and Dr. Nat Turner?" The computer responded in a clear feminine voice reminiscent of Dr. Pao's voice. "Yes, we have a new account for Ms. Sabrina Cabernet and Dr. Nat Turner. It was opened on May 25th at the Bank of Shanghai in Hong Kong. There was a $5 million deposit made, drawn on drafts from the Bank of America, Manufacturers Hanover, Citibank, Suisse Bank of Lucerne and the Bank of Zurich. Their stated reason for this large deposit was to acquire controlling interest of various businesses in the People's Republic of China. They mentioned specifically electronics, power tools and toys. Would you like to know their business addresses and their personal addresses?"
The computer awaited another inquiry.
Dr. Ling responded, "No, I'm not interested in where they live. I'm only interested in the business they want to conduct with the Bank of Shanghai. Do you have an account open for them here in Shanghai?"
The computer responded, "An account is open, and we're using the same account numbers that were used in Hong Kong. Only the Shanghai suffix is added. Any funds deposited or withdrawn from their account in Hong Kong will be handled as a single account here in Shanghai."
Dr. Ling turned to Sabrina and Nat. "We not only have all of our banks connected with fiber optics, but any transfers or withdrawals made from correspondent banks are immediately transferred to our central computer."
Nat asked, "Is your central computer here in the bank in Shanghai?"
Dr. Ling responded, "No, we have a computer here in the bank, but the main computers are in a complex in Xi’an. Have you ever been to Xi’an?"
"Yes, I was in Xi’an two years ago. I went there to see the beautiful old city. But of course, like all of the other tourists in the area, I was very interested in the terra-cotta soldiers. Xi’an is the old capitol of the province, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes. It's a very old city."
"Perhaps one of the most memorable nights of my life was in Xi’an. I was staying at the Golden Flower Hotel, and I spent the evening enjoying the old part of the city inside the walls with a lady I met on the trip. There was a wonderful festival atmosphere. I'm completely amazed at how capitalistic minded the Chinese people are to have a Communistic form of government. I've been nowhere in the People's Republic where your people were not trying to sell me something."
Dr. Ling grinned.
Nat continued, "Does the Bank of Shanghai have a branch in Xi’an?" Dr. Ling responded, "Oh, yes. We've a large branch, but the computer center is entirely separate. It's in a large compound outside of the city. It's a very secure facility, however, and covers many acres. It has a wall around it with guards patrolling twenty-four-hour a day. I don't mean to make it sound so melodramatic, but when all of your records are kept by computer in a central location, it must be secure. Every transaction taking place anywhere within the Bank of Shanghai is instantly reported to and recorded on four separate computers that are redundant. They're widely separated. No natural disaster or man-made disaster can corrupt the integrity of our financial records. Not even earthquakes can damage any of our computers. There is a floating floor on water supported by a heavy springing system. 8 point shocks would barely create vibration.
"Is that where Dr. Pao does her work?"
"She's there often. There're not many weeks that go by in which Dr. Pao doesn't fly to Xi’an. She has a very large and beautiful palace located near the compound outside of the city, and of course, the same is true here in Shanghai."
"Does Dr. Pao do her own programming?'
He answered, "Oh, no. She doesn't do her programming anymore. Some of the original programming was done by Dr. Pao three or four years ago. Now she has a large staff of computer experts. She consults with them, and gives them personal direction on the new projects."
"Do you mind me asking all of these questions?"
Dr. Ling answered, "Oh, no. This is the main thrust of Pao Banking Services. I'm pleased you're interested."
Nat asked, "Where did she find so many computer experts in the central part of the People's Republic?"
Dr. Ling answered "The chief administrators in the compound were educated in the United States at the California Institute of Technology."
Nat confirmed, "I believe you mentioned earlier that she graduated from there?"
"Yes, and that's where she met most of the people who are her corporate officers. Each has a doctorate in computer science from Cal-Tech. When they returned to the People's Republic, they went to Xi’an and started their computer business. It wasn't long, however, before they added banking to their computer software business. Within six months they had set up their own computer school in Xi’an. Now they search all over the People's Republic for the brightest minds they can find. They are no longer sent to the California Institute of Technology. We enroll them in our own school in Xi’an. Dr. Pao now has more than one thousand programmers working for her, and they all have the equivalent of doctorates in computer science. While their education might not be quite as broad as they would get in the United States, their education here is directed toward computer conceptualization.
"What are Dr. Pao's objectives in employing all of these computer programmers?"
"Her objective is to make the computer the greatest servant to mankind the world has ever known. She not only has one thousand programmers working for her, but some two hundred to two hundred and fifty are in school at this time. It takes about eighteen months to get the proper education and training to be employed by Dr. Pao on a permanent basis. The students however are on the payroll the moment they're enrolled in school. When you come to work for Dr. Pao, you're virtually guaranteed to become wealthy. She not only pays well initially, but all her employees share in her good fortune. As Dr. Pao makes money, those who work for her and contribute to her success, share in that success. I promise you, there's not a more loyal group of employees in any company than right here at the Bank of Shanghai and at Pao Banking Services in Xi’an."
"Would it be possible for Sabrina and me to go to Xi’an and see her school?"
"I'm not sure. Typically I would say no. It's a very secure facility. On the other hand, you and Dr. Pao have developed a very special relationship so it might be possible later."
"Does Dr. Pao sell her technology?"
"Yes, she's in the software business. The largest banks in the world are sending representatives to the compound in Xi’an. Our banking software allows a financial organization to become very efficient and profitable. Any bank that puts in Dr. Pao's software and her voice actuated computers will be light years ahead of their competitors. Her objective is to have a new improvement in banking software available every three months. And to make it easy, the updated software can be installed within minutes. It's designed to be completely up-gradable from previous versions. The software is provided over optical fiber, and the installation is completely automatic."
"You're obviously having a lot of success in selling the software."
"Oh, yes Dr. Ling said proudly. Almost every bank in the world is clamoring for it. Banking is already the most automated industry in the world, and the cost of operating voice actuated software is very inexpensive. Dr. Pao offers a unique feature in on-line help. When you buy software from our company, you're connected electronically with the compound in Xi’an. Should there be any question or any problem in your bank, you don't even have to make a long-distance phone call. Whatever error code is noted by the computer in the bank, whether it is Zurich, New York, Berlin or London, that error code is automatically transferred back to the compound in Xi’an. It's analyzed by our computers, and if it's a software problem, is fixed automatically through directions given by one computer to the other. If it's a hardware malfunction, then the computer sends complete instructions to one of the parallel computers installed in each bank. Within minutes, any repair can be affected."
"Do I understand it correctly when you say that Dr. Pao has a direct electronic line into most of the major banks in the world?"
"Well, I wouldn't say most, but it growing rapidly. We do offer another service that's proving to be a very successful marketing tool. To demonstrate the effectiveness of our software, we don't even have to send a representative to talk to a prospective customer. All of this can be handled either electronically through the computers or by telephone. As you know from your own experience, bank transfers are being made electronically now. No actual cash is being transferred from one bank to the other, so bank communication is through very powerful digital switches, connected through a vast electronic network. Anyone who wants to see a demonstration of our software simply allows us to make a demonstration electronically. We download the software to the prospective customer and automatically install it in their central computer. It's as simple as copying a file from one location to another. The prospective customer can now use the software for a period of time without any expense or any inconvenience at all. We're not foolish enough to download without any precautions, however. We always place an expiration date on the software, which mean that at the appointed time, the software simply ceases to function. To be honest with you, we've never downloaded the software to a bank that did not end up purchasing it. Once they become a customer of ours, we immediately connect them directly to the compound in Xi’an. We have computers within the compound that do nothing but monitor all of our customers' computers. There're very few countries now that don't have at least some presence of Dr. Pao's computing software."
"Dr. Pao now has direct electronic communications with most major banks in the world even if they are not using her software?"
"Yes, she does, there are very few banks we can't reach electronically. Virtually all banks are subscribers to some central network allowing them to make inter-fund transfers between banks. Dr. Pao's software is already the dominant software in the world, and within a year or two no major bank will be able to compete effectively without a Pao installation. And you must remember, updates are issued every three months. The methods and techniques are being improved constantly."
"Does this mean that Dr. Pao could monitor all of the accounts in any major bank in the world?"
He answered, "Oh, no, nothing such as that. She could only monitor accounts if she knew the passwords. The passwords protect the integrity of private information. Banking has become one big network already. It's the same as a telephone system. The principle is no different. You can pick up the telephone on my desk and make a call anywhere. The telephone system is available twenty-four hours, seven days a week. The banking network is operational for twenty-four hours, seven days a week. There's no difference whatsoever. One bank can communicate with another as easily as human beings can communicate with each other."
"How does one bank protect itself? Can't passwords be broken just like codes?"
"You're talking about hackers. First of all this is the banking community. There is great integrity. You're not going to find one bank trying to break the password of another. That's illegal. Nevertheless we take precautions and at the Bank of Shanghai change our passwords often. This is done electronically. When a password is changed at the Bank of Shanghai, each of the other banks within our system is notified electronically. It's a very secure system and is difficult to breach. If there were a hacker out there somewhere trying to break our password system, they would run into the strongest firewall in existence. We install the firewall for free and it has never been breached. We have a large team that monitors all of our customer banks to make sure no hacker is making any inquiries in to our system. The few that have tried were in for a surprise. Every computer has a unique identifying address that is broadcast anytime the computer moves into the ether world. We read this address and can identify the exact computer involved and its location. As soon as this identification is confirmed the local authorities are notified. Our company is a great help to all law enforcement authorities.”
"But hackers do break into networks, don't they?"
"Yes, hackers have broken into some networks but there are ones that do not change passwords very often. It takes hours and hours to come up with all the permutations it takes to crack a single password. Most of the hackers you've heard about were breaking into networks operated by universities that were designed to allow thousands and thousands of users to be on-line at all times. While there has been some financial loss through hacking, it has been a breach of security more than any actual financial loss taking place."
Dr. Ling continued, "Learning from other people's bad experiences, we at the Bank of Shanghai require a series of passwords to get into our central computer. You also have to have a valid I.D. that will make you a certified user. To hack your way through half a dozen passwords and provide a valid I.D. for password is a task that's just too great for a hacker to undertake. The permutations are in the millions. The moment such attempt is made we are on them like a duck on a June bug to use an American expression."
"Dr. Ling, is Pao Banking Services connected directly to all of the individual bank's computers?"
"Yes, but for software maintenance only. We do have access to the banks and their networks, but we're only monitoring how well the software is working. We also have sensors within our members' computers that allow us to anticipate breakdowns. This has become one of our best services. Once our monitoring system is placed within the computer of a bank, they have virtual assurance that an unexpected breakdown within the hardware itself will not take place. The dropping of a byte, or a power fluctuation experienced by an aging component is detected and the bank is notified for immediate maintenance and repair. The Pao Security System is one of the best services our company offers its banks."
"Are all banks going to voice actuated computers?"
"I would anticipate this will be the major source of entry within a few years. We've installed voice actualization in many banks internally for testing, but they have not moved it to the teller's desk or into the automatic teller machines as yet. This is coming on-line very rapidly. It will be standard practice within the banking system. We already have demonstration units in most of the major banks to test the system. This is more a change of philosophy than anything else. Once you get used to talking to a computer to make your entries, you'd never go back to another method."
"I imagine this also does much to relieve eye fatigue."
"Oh, yes. You talk to the computer the way we're talking right now. Before there was eye strain, problems with wrists and fingers and joints from sitting in front of computer screens all day entering data on keyboards? We're doing away with all of that now. Because of electronic scanning and voice actuated computers, the number of personnel is reduced and profits sky rocket."
"How are the conversions made? Do you have to go into a bank and read every transaction that's made by voice and let the computer enter it orally?"
Dr. Ling, "Oh, no, nothing like that. In fact, through Dr. Pao's innovations, it's very simple. Remember, the internal workings of a computer are strictly digital. These bytes of memory are simply translated into the human voice. Once you install the Pao software and add the sound component to your computer, it talks to you as clearly as we're speaking right now."
"Let me ask you another question. In a few minutes we're going to contact five banks in various cities of the world. I want to make drafts of one million dollars and put them on account here in Shanghai. You're telling me that at the moment that money is deposited in the bank, I can turn around and ask your computer the status of my account, and the computer will answer in a clear voice?"
"Yes, the computer will give you the status of your account. Of course, it will interrogate you to see that you have the proper password, and that will allow you access to any information that's on the data base relating to your account. Another remarkable aspect of the computer is that it will answer your questions in the language in which you asked the question. Dr. Pao made our computers multi-lingual. That's an incredible feature. You can speak in English, and I can speak in Chinese to the same computer. You get your answer in English, and I'll get my answer in Chinese. If you want to switch to French in mid-sentence, you will get your answer in English and in French."
"Could I interrogate the status of my accounts in the various banks where we have deposits, even if the banks are not on the system?"
He answered, "Yes, very easily. Give our computer the password and it will translate it into a digital inquiry. It will inquire as to the status of your account using the proper password as if you had entered it on a keyboard. When the information is returned, it's translated back into the human voice. Through Dr. Pao's software, all banking systems are compatible. Our computers can communicate very effectively with the most antiquated computers as long as they're on the network."
Nat let his fascination and appreciation show and continued, "What are the programmers primarily working on now?"
"They're working on new innovations and improvements in banking services, but Dr. Pao is ready to branch out and provide software to the major brokerage houses. It's her intention for Pao Banking Services to become the financial hub for the world. The Xi’an compound is already the leading center for parallel processing. Her goal is for the computers in Xi’an to be the nerve center for every financial institution within the next decade. We already have transponders on privately owned satellites. She's contracted with a German consortium to place six strategically placed satellites in geostationary orbit at strategic locations. These will be for use only by the Pao Network."
"You must be making tremendous amounts of money with this incredible computer business."
"To be honest, we're not making any money at all at moment, but of course, in the long run, we'll make a substantial amount of money. So far everything we've accumulated has gone into research and development. It's Dr. Pao's philosophy that we must gain market share before we start making a profit."
"You mean she's placing the software in all of these banks at no cost?"
"No, there's a cost, but it's fairly nominal considering all you get. She thinks that once we're in place, the cost of operating the monitoring system will be fairly nominal, but the annual charges are the source of money for us. At the moment the objective is to place our software in as many banks as possible. We'll soon have all of them connected to our own private satellite network back to Xi’an."
"You're obviously being very successful."
"Yes, as I say, visitors are in Xi’an almost every day, and the ease of installation means there's no installation charge for the software. You pay the nominal fee, and we install it through the network."
"From what you tell me, you already have the ability to make inquiries into any bank in the world on an inter-bank network."
"Yes, we do. But the objective, as I mentioned before, is to have a direct connection from all banking systems directly to Xi’an. Then we can give the greatest service. I think our theory is proving to be correct. Plane loads of bankers are coming to the People's Republic at our expense to learn about our network and monitoring system. There is no other company devoting the resources to the development of financial software as we are at Pao Banking Services."
"If you're only breaking even, how did Dr. Pao get to be the richest woman in the world?"
"That's very confidential."
"Well, I know it's confidential, but how can someone amass five hundred billion dollars with no visible signs of income?"
"As I said, that's confidential."
Nat gave Dr. Ling a big smile. "Does being confidential mean that you don't know?"
Dr. Ling responded with a big smile. "You're exactly right. I don't know. As you might guess, there's great speculation as to how she amassed her wealth, but while we may talk about it privately, we don't talk openly. It's not our business."
"Do I assume that she did it with computers?"
"She may have done it with mirrors for all I know."
"The word on the street is that her assets are over five hundred billion dollars, with millions and millions of dollars being accumulated each day. There has to be an answer. No one could accumulate that much money legally in such a short period of time."
Dr. Ling smiled and said, "Well, let me ask you this question. Could you garner that much money illegally without being detected? That doesn't make any sense either. You can't come up with a scheme and have money start pouring in every day without somebody crying foul. You just can't steal that much money without people knowing about it."
Nat then added, "She must be making a lot of money through dividends and her investments. Five hundred billion with a compounded rate of return of 18 or 20 percent would produce close to $100 billion per year just in dividends and interest. If she never received another dime from whatever sources the original money came from, her current net worth is going to grow geometrically."
Dr. Ling confirmed, "Yes, I suspect she's getting 18 to 20 percent compounded. That will mean that her assets are going to double every three and a half to four years, even if she does nothing but live off her investments. So five hundred billion will turn into a trillion in a very short time, and seven years from now, it will be $2 trillion, and fourteen years from now it will be $4 trillion. There're only a handful of countries in the world with the potential assets of Dr. Pao."
Nat then replied, "Yes, with assets like that, she could corner any commodity in the world. She could buy all the gold. She could buy all the silver. She could take over the greatest industrial complexes in the world. There just seems to be no limits."
Sabrina asked Dr. Ling, "Does she work all the time?"
Dr. Ling answered, "I would say that she works hard, and she plays hard. She's a very private person. She's gracious and charming, but I promise you, she's a very good business woman. There's no question with anyone associated with Pao Enterprises as to who's the boss. And while she certainly is a lovely lady, her greatest asset is that steel-trap mind. She certainly is the most intelligent person I've ever been around, and she is much disciplined. Some say she thinks like a computer, but on the other hand, she's very artistic and creative."
"Well, you can be very artistic and creative and still like computers. In fact, I would say the secret of her success is the fact that she's been able to use computers in a creative sort of way."
Sabrina asked, "do you know much about her Cal-Tech education?'
Dr. Ling answered, "Yes, I was there in school with her."
"Do you know about her post-doctoral work?"
"Yes. I was with her every step of the way. She did two post-doctoral stints. She spent two years working on computer algorithms and two years on computer linguistics."
Sabrina continued her inquiry. "I take it this is the training that led Pao Banking Services and the Bank of Shanghai into voice-activated computer entry."
Dr. Ling responded, "Yes, everything is voice actuation or electronic scanning. We use voice for entry level and for direct inquiry for specific information. Beyond that, everything is reduced to material that can be transmitted electronically or scanned electronically. We don't need pencil and paper at Pao Enterprises. This is the first truly paperless business anywhere in the world. That's a matter of pride with Dr. Pao."
"Thank you for sharing Dr. Pao's story with us. This has been most interesting, Dr. Ling, and you have been very generous with your time. But I suppose we should move on to other business now. While I'm envious of Dr. Pao's ability to amass money, that's not making any money for Sabrina and me. Can you provide us offices in Shanghai?"
"Yes, that has been arranged. You have a suite of offices on the eighteenth floor right here in the Bank of Shanghai building."
Sabrina asked Dr. Ling, "Can you find us a secretary?"
"Yes, she will be in your office first thing in the morning. In a few minutes, I'll take you up and show you the offices and see if there're modifications you'd like to make."
Nat then asked "Will you allow me to use your voice-activated computer to make my own transfers?"
He answered, "Absolutely. Let me leave, and I'll be back in five or ten minutes, and we'll go up stairs to see if your facilities are adequate for your needs."
Dr. Ling stood, smiled graciously, shook hands with Sabrina and Nat, thanked them for their new business connection, and left the room. Nat turned to Sabrina and said, "This is going to be a new experience for me."
Sabrina commented, "With equipment like this, Dr. Pao is capable of creating a monopoly of the total banking system in the world."
Nat spoke to the computer. "Hal, are you ready to make my transfers?" A voice from the computer responded. "Yes, Dr. Turner, I'm at your service."
"Hal, I want one million dollars transferred from the Bank of Singapore to my account. My password is Zebra 18,000."
The computer responded, "Zebra 18,000, Dr. Turner. I'll make inquiries into the Bank of Singapore immediately. Can I help you in any other way?"
"Yes. I want $1 million transferred from the Suisse Bank of Lucerne. The password for that account is High Octave 239346."
The computer responded, "Password is High Octave 239346. Can I help you in any other way?"
"Yes. I want another million dollars transferred from the Bank of Hanover. The password is Ausgang Baurbrupt."
The computer responded, "$1 million drafted from the Bank of Hanover. The password is Ausgang Baurbrupt. Can I help you in any other way?"
"Hal, transfer $1 million from the Wachovia Bank of Georgia. The password is Salem Town 92,000."
The computer responded, "The Wachovia Bank of Georgia, $1 million transferred. Password is Salem Town 92,000. Can I be of any further service, sir?"
Nat directed, "Yes, Hal. Transfer $1 million from National Bank Corp. of San Antonio, Texas. The password is Brownsville Adurex."
The computer responded, "$1 million from National Bank Corp. of San Antonio, Texas. Password is Brownsville Adurex. Can I be of any further service, sir?"
"Well, Hal, I don't want to transfer any more money. You'll bleed me dry. Five million dollars is quite enough at one sitting. Now let me ask you when the transfers will be made?"
The computer responded, "They have already been made, sir. Your account now has $5 million in the Bank of Shanghai, located in the city of Shanghai, and it has $5 million in the Bank of Shanghai, located in the city of Hong Kong. Total capital assets in the Bank of Shanghai are $10 million, and the drawing interest through private investment at 15 percent.
Nat responded, "Fifteen percent? That certainly beats the bank rates in the United States."
The computer responded, "Yes sir, but we don't pay everyone 15 percent. This is a private investment account authorized by Dr. Pao."
"If I were to increase my deposits considerably, would all of them draw 15 percent?"
The computer responded, "No, sir. The next $10 million will draw 18 percent, and this is compounded daily. You have made a very wise choice to bank with the Bank of Shanghai in Dr. Pao's private investment account."
"Hal, I would like to take you home with me."
The computer responded, "Sir, I am available to you any time, any place, any day. You may contact me by telephone or any other method. I'll not even require your account number or your password. I'll recognize your voice."
"Hal, don't you have to be trained?"
The computer responded, "Yes, sir. I have to be trained, but I've been talking with you several minutes now, and I would recognize your voice anywhere."
"Well, thank you, Hal, for all the help you've given me. I'll be back in touch with you very soon."
The computer responded, "Please do so, sir. I'm at your service."
There was a soft knock at the door. Nat responded, "Come in." Dr. Ling had returned to his office. Nat said, "I've had the most amazing conversation with my new friend, Hal."
Dr. Ling looked puzzled, "Hal?"
"Yes, Hal. This is something of an inside joke. Hal, if you recall, was the computer made famous in the movie, 2001, the Space Odyssey."
Dr. Ling grinned and responded, "I can't think of a more appropriate name."
Nat then asked, "Do you use Hal only for bank information?"
"Oh, no. We use Hal for anything. We're using super computers in parallel processing. We're tied into virtually every informational data base anywhere."
"You mean Hal is good at trivia."
"The best in the world, If you want to know climatic conditions, financial trends, historical fact, virtually anything that has been reduced for electronic processing either on CD-ROM or on a large database somewhere. Your friend, Hal, can tap into them immediately and provide you answers you can understand in plain English."
"Can he do all this instantaneously?"
"Well, most of the time it appears to be instantaneous. Remember, we're going to satellite and working at the speed of light, and when you're moving 186,000 miles per second, the only slowdown is the access time of the data base at the original source. If access time is slow, that slows Hal down too. But there's an interesting aspect to the way that Hal is configured. Dr. Pao has the computer keep a profile on you, so anytime he recognizes your voice in terms of an inquiry, he immediately downloads information that you're most likely to inquire about based on past experience. At the moment, he's had very little experience with you, but by working with him every day he will learn to download the information you're most likely to need. If you want climatic conditions, business trends or stock market quotations, the minute your voice came on line, he would start downloading this information to have it ready for instantaneous response. There isn't any other computer access like it anywhere in the world. Just think, our computers can converse with you in your own native language. If you want to change languages, try it on Hal. He'll answer you in the language in which you asked the question."
"And all of this was the brainchild of Dr. Pao?"
"Every bit, but of course, she has twelve very bright right hands, and they have a thousand programmers and analysts working on various aspects of this system themselves. We're using nothing but the very brightest of the brains in the People’s Republic right now."
Sabrina asked "Can I have two of his brothers in our offices upstairs?"
"You certainly can. Every room in this building is wired with optical fiber, and we can tie you in with the central computer with no problem whatsoever."
Nat smiled. "What's going to keep me from interrogating your computer and getting all of your secrets?"
Dr. Ling smiled broadly, "Passwords, sir, passwords. Your friend, Hal, knows when to allow you access to information and when to deny you information. But I promise you one thing, he will do it politely. You will get comments such as, 'I'm so sorry, Dr. Turner. You're not authorized for that information, but if you'd like to talk with Dr. Ling or Dr. Pao, I'm sure they might make an exception in your case. Why don't you make a telephone call to them right now? All they have to do is say the word and I'll do anything that you're permitted to do. "
Nat laughed out loud and said, "Could you show us our offices now?"
Nat, Sabrina and Dr. Ling left his office and proceeded to a modern glass elevator mounted on the outside of the building and sped to the eighteenth floor. Dr. Ling led them down the hall to their offices. The suite consisted of four rooms, each filling a complete bay, with windows overlooking the Huangpu River. A reception room, a work room and two rooms furnished as executive offices comprised the suite. The two executive offices were connected by a door and both also were directly by door into the receptionist office. The rooms were furnished with high quality furniture and a computer work station and a high speed laser printer.
Nat walked over to the window and looked down on the Zhongshan Donglu with its many cars, trucks and thousands of bicycles. He asked Dr. Ling, "Are the computers networked together?"
"Yes, they're networked, but they're also in the network with the bank's mainframe computer. All the software you need is resident in each work station."
"Who designed these computers?"
"We only use work stations designed by Dr. Pao. They're the most advanced in the world. They use the UNIX operating system even though that has been modified considerably by Dr. Pao. She likes object-oriented programming and all of her computers must have high speed networking capabilities."
Dr. Ling gave Nat and Sabrina quick instructions on accessing the mainframe through voice actuation. He accessed various programs and then gave each of them a personal password, allowing them world-wide communication, with the charges being absorbed by the bank.
Nat said, "Thank you for taking time to work with us this morning. The suite of offices is perfect for our needs. I'm a little surprised however, that you will allow us to access the banks network."
"Passwords, Dr. Turner, passwords. Using the UNIX system the systems administrator assigns the passwords. I'm allowed access to certain programs and files just as you are. Neither of us can go beyond our assigned territory without the permission of the system administrator."
"Does each bank have its own system administrator?"
"No, the system administrator is in Xi’an, and while Dr. Pao doesn't serve in this capacity there's very little latitude given to the system administrator. Dr. Pao is the final authority on all permissions."
"That sounds fair enough from our end. Our needs from the system are fairly simple. It also gives me the confidence that I'm working with a well run bank. The more you tell me about Dr. Pao the more impressed I am. One other matter, Dr. Ling. If we want to work at night, how do we get in?"
"I'll see that you have personal identification cards prepared. They should be here within the hour. It won't take security very long to get to know you. You're certainly the most handsome couple using our building and there's already great interest circulating in the bank about our new customers. As a matter of course I want to tell you that security is very good at all of Dr. Pao's facilities and anything you leave in your office will be quite safe."
Dr. Ling gave a nodding bow and said, "If you don't require any additional services, I'll be returning to my duties at the bank. I'm as close as your telephone. If you have any needs I've overlooked don't have the slightest hesitation in letting me know."
Dr. Ling exited the room to return to his duties in the executive offices of the Bank of Shanghai below. Sabrina and Nat walked into the office that Sabrina had selected as hers. She sat down behind the desk and Nat sat facing her in a wing chair.
She said, "What do you think?"
Nat responded, "What do you think?"
Sabrina raised her eye brows, "We're way ahead of schedule."
Nat nodded, "Yes, and we're dealing with one smart cookie."
"Nat, do you think she has an Achilles heel?"
"Maybe, but elaborate on that."
Sabrina looked pensive, "She's brilliant. The computer design and this incredible electronic network is beyond anything I've ever imagined. I assumed that computers would become intelligent but she's light years ahead of anyone else right now. We may end up attacking her in her strength."
Nat agreed, "You might be right. The only possible advantage I can think of is that she's so far ahead of everyone else she's not expecting to be challenged. She certainly not expecting a challenge by the two of us. We would pose no threat to her from an electronic point of view. That could be her weakness."
Sabrina gave Nat her dazzling smile.
She said, "Let's get on with the task at hand."
"What do you want to do first?"
"One of us needs to start spending more time with Sing Pao. We need her confidence. The other needs to get busy devising a plan we can execute."
Nat became very serious."
"Can you believe that we left California just five days ago and already we've become acquainted with two of Dr. Pao's key bank presidents? We have met Dr. Pao and developed a personal relationship with her, and we now understand how the legitimate side of her business works."
"Nat, the amazing thing about her legitimate operation is that she could make billions without doing anything illegal. She could dominate the financial markets with her software, and her computers boggle your mind. The personnel of any labor intensive industry could cut their work force by seventy five to eighty percent. No competitor could exist. Everyone is going to need this equipment. Those two businesses alone would make her the richest person in the world. I wonder why she would risk anything illegal when success is at her door step."
"She's on a fast track and not willing to wait. She found a way to exploit the banking system and it was just too easy not to take advantage of it. There're not many who can resist the temptation of the fast buck."
Sabrina smiled and shook her head. "Can you believe that banks are coming from all over the world and asking her to install her software and her monitoring system in their operation? They're handing her their funds on a silver platter. Even she must think she's dreaming sometimes. The use of fiber optics allowing them to install her software themselves makes everything seem so innocuous. The blasted thing installs itself. She then has access to all of the files and accounts in the bank and can roam around at will."
"With her monitoring system in place she has every bank directly connected to the Xi’an complex. Her people become the system administrator for the world wide banking system. They can determine who has access to information in the bank. They're in complete control and the poor unsuspecting bank doesn't even know it. They can set up accounts, delete accounts, move money around, remove money from the inactive accounts and do all of this anywhere in the world in a blink of the eye."
"Remember Dr. Ling's comment. Passwords. Everything is protected by passwords."
"Yes and how long does it take Dr. Pao to hack through a password? No more than a second, a half second, a tenth of a second. She can hack through faster than the computer can display the need for additional passwords."
Sabrina looked at Nat. "What are you going to do first?"
"Do you remember the country music song, who do you know in California and what is she doing calling here? I'm going to trade on a friendship I have in California and see if we can expedite matters a bit. Within the next few days we'll have copies everything Dr. Pao published while she was a student at Cal Tech. Tom Carey, who heads the computer science department at the university has been a friend of mine for ten years. We have done a lot of work together."
"What are you going to ask Tom to do?"
"If we're lucky it won't be long before we have in our possession Dr. Pao's algorithm for breaking passwords in bank computers."
"You mean sitting back there at Cal Tech is Dr. Pao algorithm?"
"I certainly hope so. I strongly suspect it is."
"Nat that sounds so incredible and so easy. Why on earth would you have something that valuable lying around somewhere on a college campus?"
"Well, it isn't exactly just lying around, but I suspect very strongly that the algorithm was a basic part of her doctoral research. Her major in her doctoral program was computer science so we know that the work on which her dissertation was based and the supporting research has to be documented in the Cal Tech mainframe. It's going to be on file and easily accessible from the university database. Her first post doc was done in algorithms."
Sabrina interrupted, "Yes, but would she leave something this valuable in archives of the university?"
Nat responded, "Yes this is the evidence that gives her credibility for the work she did both at the doctoral and post doctoral levels. What I'm counting on is that Dr. Pao did not start out with a larcenous intent. I think she went to Cal Tech as a brilliant Chinese student who had a gift in the field of computer science. Somewhere along the way she became very interested in codes and algorithms that could facilitate computer work. It's obvious that she saw the networking of computers as the wave of the future. For years we've been devising ways that we can make computers work together in some parallel fashion. That's the work of the algorithm. It allows you to take all of the computing power at hand and make all of the computers work on highly complex mathematical problems at the same time. I'm sure that Dr. Pao devised a system that would connect hundreds of work stations together to solve a single problem. Being a brilliant student she discovered along the way that the immense power of hundreds of computers could be used in a more devious way. Remember, modern computers are built for multitasking. There can be hundreds or even thousands of people sharing one computer at the same time with very satisfactory results without degradation. Her algorithm would allow her to use anyone's computer on the network and they wouldn't even know it. This places incredible computing power in her hands."
Nat placed his hand on his chin and continued. "Her next step would have been to develop a means to break passwords. I'm sure she wasn't thinking of stealing money from banks at the time but it was simply a matter of academic research to show the power of her original algorithm. As smart as she is, however she recognized very quickly that all computers on a network were vulnerable for her use or inquiry without any way for them to protect themselves."
Sabrina looked at Nat inquisitively. "What do you think her ultimate objective is. Just to accumulate more and more money. That doesn't seem to be an interesting or useful way to spend a lifetime?"
Nat blinked his eyes three times, "I think she wants to take over the banking system of the world and she may damn well already have done it."
"Do you think she plans to do that out of the complex at Xi’an?"
Nat replied, "I'm sure of it. When she gets all of the banks on line through her software or even if a bank is in a network with one of these banks, she can hold the banking systems of the world hostage."
Sabrina asked, "Once they find this out, won't they simply take her software out of their computers?"
Nat answered, "I'm not sure they're going to find out, or if they do it'll be too late. With new releases of her software coming every three months she will soon become the central clearing house for all the banks. They'll all be connected directly to Xi’an. With the current rate structures in place all of these banks will start making money hand over fist because of their new efficiency. No one will be interested leaving Dr. Pao's operation. They're all going to be getting richer by the day."
Sabrina observed, "Sooner or later the missing money is going to have to be detected and there'll be a worldwide banking scandal."
Nat grinned. "I'm not sure the missing money will turn up. I think that Dr. Pao has become the bookkeeper for the world. I think we'll see the greatest check kiting scheme the world has ever known taking place right there in Xi’an. When we first started discussing her operation I thought she was simply breaking into inactive accounts and would be able to execute the scheme for a few years before the bubble exploded. I'd imagined that some of the missing money may have already been detected by the bank auditors from the Federal Reserve Bank. The banking system is so sensitive to bad publicity they usually keep shortages confidential until they can investigate and apprehend the culprit. This all seemed very plausible to me and that's how I thought she was able to get away with 500 billion dollars in three years."
"You've changed your mind?"
"Yes, I have. Her operation is much more complex than I imagined. I never dreamed she was a major player in the banking community with her software positioned in banks all around the world. When she starts selling her voice actuated computers she will become the banking system. She's going to be the bank for banks. I would think that even the Federal Reserve Bank will start using Xi’an as their base of operation. That's scary to think about. She's doing the unbelievable."
Nat sat there and shook his head from side to side with the glassy look of deep concentration showing in his eyes.
"Sabrina, with the system she has in place, and with it growing every day, a bank shortage never will be uncovered."
"But how is that possible? Isn't the money being taken out of the banks?"
"The money is being taken out of the banks by the millions and billions of dollars, but anytime a request for withdrawal is made from an account that Dr. Pao has robbed, her computer intercepts the request. Once the request is intercepted by her computer, she automatically covers the request with money from one of her pools of funds that she views as till money. This reserve would not have to exceed 2%. There is never a time that a withdrawal is denied."
"Think of it this way. If you had ten million dollars in the bank and I was able to steal all of it, but yet every time you wanted to make a withdrawal the request was honored, you'd never know your money had been stolen. For all practical purposes it hasn't been stolen as far as you're concerned."
"What about interest payments?"
"Dr. Pao will make the interest payments. For the use of your money she can pay the going interest rate and that appears on your statement. She will make her money on the spread the same way that all banks do."
"What about the statements? Every month the customer will get a statement. Will it show funds are on deposit even when there's no actual money in the account?"
"Sure. That's what all banks do. There's no actual money in an account. It's simply a liability of the bank. But on your statement it appears as if the funds are there. Dr. Pao's computer will see that the accounting is done properly. While the statements are bogus, any bank with the Pao software will be issuing statements that will completely fool the customers. All transactions will be recorded, all credits will be made, all checks will be paid, all interest added. Everyone will be happy and satisfied, and yet the money in the account will actually be in the hands of Dr. Pao. It's a check kiting scheme. It's incredible. No one's ever the wiser. It's theoretically possible for Dr. Pao to have most of the deposits of the bank in her own money pools and yet covering everyone's request through the till money concept."
"There's always enough money on hand in her pool to cover any shortage or needed funds. Sing's computers can make these transfers instantaneously, right."
"Right and no one's the wiser."
Sabrina looked at Nat. "And all of this can be done in millionths of a second."
"Yes, there'll never be any detectable degradation on the system to suggest that money is being transferred in from anywhere."
"Isn't this the basic operating method of all banks?"
"Yes. The bank keeps only about two percent in the till to cover withdrawals, the rest is used to meet required Federal Bank reserves and the rest is loaned or invested. Your money is gone and is working for the bank. Dr. Pao has moved this concept to the ultimate and is doing it without the knowledge of the bank. As I said before, she's become a bank for banks. It's simple in concept, but complicated in execution. It takes a genius like Dr. Pao to make this thing work. There's no end in sight."
Sabrina was excited. "Nat, there's no evidence either. She takes money and moves it around the world in seconds, opens accounts, closes accounts, erases accounts and as we said before there's no physical evidence. You can't put dye bombs in computers. There's no audit trail. There's nothing anyone in the world can do about it. Even more ironically she's the rage among the banking community. She's the toast of the town. She's becoming their greatest dignitary. Little do they know that she's stealing them blind? Can you imagine that even if they did find out what she was doing there's nothing they can do about it. She could collapse the whole banking system if she were exposed. She's now the single most powerful person in the world."
"Money is power."
Sabrina responded, "If money is power then she unquestionably is the most powerful person anywhere today. But more than that there's nothing anyone can do about it. Can you believe she is doing all of this without firing a shot or even having an argument? She can now hold the economic systems of the world hostage and collect her own ransom without even sending a note. All she does is taking it away from them without their knowledge."
"I need to call Tom Carey. I want to get started on this. I'm so excited I can barely sit here. I want to get to work."
"While you do that I'm going to concentrate on Dr. Pao's psyche. I want to get a good feel for her."
Nat retreated to his new office leaving Sabrina to make contact with Sing Pao. Once in his office he went to his desk and sat down. He turned to his computer and said, "Use the ATT direct dial number to the United States. I want to talk with Dr. Tom Carey the Head of the Computer Science Department at the California Institute of Technology."
Within a matter of moments Nat was speaking to the secretary in Dr. Carey's office.
"I would like to speak to Dr. Carey please. This is Nat Turner from North Carolina, but I happen to be in Shanghai right now."
"Oh, hello Dr. Turner, this is Joyce, Dr. Carey's secretary. It must have been six months since we've talked.
"Oh, Joyce, it's great to hear your voice. I'm surprised I didn't recognize you right away. I'm usually very good with voices.'
"I've a bit of a cold. Maybe I'm talking through my nose."
"The North Carolina accent makes me fairly recognizable too. Is Tom in?"
"He certainly is and I know he'll be delighted to hear from you. Let me put you on hold for just a moment."
In less than ten seconds Nat heard the familiar voice of Tom Carey on the other end of the line.
"Nat, what on earth are you doing in Shanghai?"
"To tell you the truth I'm on a business trip. I'm going into the banking business, if you can believe it."
"Are leaving the University of North Carolina?"
"Well, I'm on a leave of absence right now, but if things work out the way I hope they do, that becomes a real possibility."
"With your expertise with computers I can see why you'd be a hot number right now, but why on earth in Shanghai? I'm sure you could do as well or better in the United States. Any of the big banks would want your expertise and would be willing to pay quite a price for it."
"Frankly, I've decided to become something of an entrepreneur right now. I've been hired to do a little investigative work, but I think there's a possibility I can turn it into a career."
"I want to hear all about it when we can sit down and talk. But I know that's not why you called me long distance from China. You must have something more important on your mind than to discuss your new venture. What can I do for you?"
"Do you remember a student you had at Cal Tech by the name of Sing Pao?"
"Sing? Of course I do. How could anyone at Cal Tech forget her? She not only was an incredible beauty, but certainly as smart as anyone who has ever gone through the computer science department. She is really something special. I don't know what it is about Orientals. I guess its discipline. They take to anything that relates to computers. Did you know that she not only did her doctoral work here but also did two post docs?"
"Yes, I do. I'm really interested in seeing her work. Do you still have it?"
"Yes, we have her dissertation and all of her publications in our library."
"I'm not really talking about her dissertation and her publications. I have someone working on that. I'm more interested in programs she wrote relating to algorithms."
"Yes, one of her post doc's was on algorithms, and in my judgment, was the leader in the field even though she was just a student at the time. Her second post doc was in computer linguistics. She had an obsession about language. She was working on making computers talk in various languages. Can you imagine the complexity? Before she left here she was really beginning to talk with computers through voice actuation. I'm not talking about voice actuated macros. She was using artificial intelligence to teach the computers to understand and make reasonable choices. She had the computer talking back to her in a very coherent way. She is the best in the field, there's no doubt about that. "
"Have you remained in contact with her?"
"Well, the answer is more yes and no. I've had greetings sent through friends, a phone call a time or two in the last four or five years but nothing special. She's kept an account open here on the mainframe. She did considerable work early on but nothing much recently."
"How did you find her personally?"
"She was wonderful. The most polite, even tempered person you'd hope to work with. She is a total joy, but a workaholic. She really put in the hours and it paid off. Nothing but the top of her class all the way through."
"Do you have the algorithms she worked on while she was a student?"
"I'm sure they're still in memory somewhere. They're probably on line, but if not we have them in a tape dump. It wouldn't take long to find them. A file search would turn them up in moments. Do you want to look at them?"
"Can you get the system administrator to authorize me to have access to her work?"
"Sure. Let me put you on hold and I'll type the instructions in right now."
Tom Carey turned to the keyboard of his computer and in a few quick keystrokes told the system administrator to authorize Nat Turner to access Sing Pao's doctoral files and charge the time to Turner's personal account. In ten to fifteen seconds Tom Carey was back on the line with Nat.
"By the time we get off the phone you'll be able to get anything out of her files you want. By the way, what's your great interest in Sing?"
"As you said before, she's an interesting lady. She's become a major player in the banking business. She's done some remarkable work. I don't know if you've been able to follow her career or not. I certainly didn't know anything about her, but she's deeply involved in providing software for the banking industry. She has customers all over the world. I would go so far as to say that she's the leading authority in banking software right now."
"She certainly has the ability to do it. I just didn't know she had a great interest in banking. But with her work in algorithms and linguistics I can see how she would be a great help in automating the banking system. She could help any business that requires the simplification of computer use."
"Well, let me get off of the line, Tom. It's been great talking with you and I'll stay in touch. I should be back in the states before too long, and if I stop in California, I'll come by to see you and catch up."
"Bye, Nat, and thanks for calling. I'm glad I could be of help. Do keep in touch."
The phone line went dead.
Nat hesitated a moment, turned to his computer and said, "Good morning. I didn't greet you a few minutes ago when I asked you to make the phone call for me."
The computer responded, "Good morning sir."
Nat said, "May I call you Hal?"
"Yes sir, you may call me Hal."
"Do you know why I'm using the name Hal?"
"Yes sir. I would think it came from the movie 2001, The Space Odyssey."
"You're exactly right. I'll tell you the truth, I forget you're not human when I talk to you and get such intelligent responses."
"Thank you sir, I'll try to be as human as possible. However, you’ll find me to be completely trustworthy, and that's not always a human trait."
"Hal, you're going to be a great help to me."
"Thank you, sir. I'll do anything I can to help."
"Hal, I want you to contact Cal Tech again but log into their mainframe computer. Use my account number and access the work of Dr. Sing Pao that was completed while she was doctoral student there. I'm very interested in programs and algorithms we can down load. I want all of the documentation that's available and I want you to analyze it very thoroughly. I'm going to be depending on your abilities heavily. I would then like for you to down load any software that she's written relating to computer linguistics. Then I would like for you to set up directories in some logical order. When you're through let me know because after that I have an interesting assignment for you."
"Yes, sir, I'll get to work on that right away. Are there any particular descriptors you want me to use? You mentioned you wanted all of the programs relating to algorithms and linguistics."
"Yes, Hal, We really do need to narrow it down. She was there seven years and we could be inundated. I think I'll wait until you've located the programs before I give you any additional instructions. I don't want you to have to go into the Cal Tech computer but once. I'll tell you this much. I want to find out how she breaks computer passwords. Concentrate on work that would help us detect her approach."
He responded, "Passwords. First of all you will want an algorithm that uses networks. I'll look for software that relates to parallel processing, networks, linguistics and repetitive inquiry. After that I'll see if I can find software that use numbers, letters and symbols in various sequences and relate them to a request for access through inquiry."
"Hal, knowing that any really secure computer will deny access if the wrong password is tried several times how wills we overcome that obstacle. Most hackers can only get into networks that don't have such security protection."
ways, sir, we can come in from any country in the world. We'll move our
of inquiry each time. A new point of entry resets the computer. A new
entry is usually accepted as a completely new set of inquiries. Second,
break in at the system administrator's level. When we do this we have
complete run of the computer. No problems after that. He or she can go
unencumbered. The target computer will be overwhelmed. I'll be making
of inquiries within a few seconds.
"Hal, why are you willing to do this? You belong to Dr. Pao and you know that I'm using her work."
"There has been no limitations placed on me not to help you do work relating to the academic community in California. There has been no limitations placed on me not to help you do work relating to the academic community in the People's Republic. My only limitations are to not let you have access to the private files of this bank or to the computer compound in Xi’an without the proper passwords."
"If I obtain the passwords will you allow me to enter those private files?"
"Yes, sir, if you have the proper passwords there is no problem; but without the password I cannot allow access."
"If you find the algorithm I need from Dr. Pao's work at Cal Tech, would you be willing to run it for me, allowing us to break the password?"
"Yes sir, there was no limitation placed on me prohibiting my running any kind of program. The only limitations relate to accessing the private files of the Bank of Shanghai at any of its branches and in Xi’an. If we're able to secure the passwords, I'll allow access there."
"Hal, you understand I don't have the passwords, but you're to be the instrument that's going to help me gain a program to break passwords and then start accessing files in Xi’an."
"Yes sir, I understand that and I'm quite willing to help you in any way I can."
"You're willing to run the program that will break the passwords."
"Yes sir. There is no prohibition on running programs. I've stated my only restrictions."
"Hal, you're a strange friend. Let's get to work. Go to California if you will and analyze the work of Dr. Pao. Find me the programs that are most likely to help us break into Xi’an. Let me know when your work is done. I'm going to get Sabrina and go on home now. I'll see you first thing in the morning."
"Good bye, sir. I hope to have your work completed when you come back in the morning. Good night."
"Good night, Hal."
Nat got up from his desk and walked to the connecting door leading to Sabrina's office. He went in and found Sabrina busily at work.
Nat asked, "Did you have any luck?"
"I need to go ahead and get an appointment with Dr. Pao. I think our first meeting will be very interesting."
"What do you mean?" Nat said with a smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
"Did you pick up any vibrations from Dr. Pao last night?"
"Are you asking me if I think she's as interested in you as she is in me?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
"I can't help but believe she's bisexual, and if I had the choice between you and me, I'd choose you."
Sabrina gave a low laugh of approval to Nat's comment.
Nat went on. "She may not be biologically bisexual. She may have become so rich and powerful that she's found out that she can possess anything or anybody in the world. This may be an acquired taste she developed as the result of having become a power in everything she does. That includes handsome men and beautiful women.
Nat continued, "I've finished my work for today. Are you ready to go home?"
"What do you mean you've finished your work? You were in the office for only a few minutes and you were by yourself. Were you able to talk to Dr. Carey at Cal Tech?"
"Yes, I got up with Tom and he authorized me to download any of Sabrina's files that are resident at the university."
"Why aren't you in there doing it?"
"Hal's doing it for me."
"Hal, your computer?"
"That's right. Hal and I discussed the project at length."
"You and Hal discussed it at length?"
"And what did you two decide?"
"We decided that Hal would go into the database in California and search the files and download only those files that relate to parallel processing and look for files that might break passwords."
"You mean that Sing Pao's own computer is going to help you break into her system? Are you sure he won't blow the whistle on you?"
"Well, you never can be sure about those things, but I really don't think he will. Hal has a very logical form of reasoning."
"Tell me more."
"He said that I'm restricted from entering the private files of the Bank of Shanghai and the compound in Xi’an. He went on to explain to me, however, that even those would be available if I had the proper password."
"I know that. But how is Hal going to help?"
"Hal explained to me that not only will he analyze the work Dr. Pao she did while she was in the states, but he's quite willing to help me find out the passwords that will hack through security and lay the files bare to us."
"You mean he will restrict you if you don't have the password, but he's quite willing to find out the proper password to use."
"That's right. It's an interesting line of reasoning, but that's Hal's way of reasoning, so it became my line of reasoning too. Hal is going to be our instrument for extracting the 500 billion from Sing Pao."
"When will he be ready for the hit?'
"I'm sure if we waited around for a while today he probably will get his work finished. I told him I'd be back first thing in the morning. He assured me he would be ready for me then."
"Nat, you're talking about that computer as if it's actually human."
"I swear Sabrina, when I talk to it and get such reasonable responses in perfect cultured English, I get the idea I am talking to a human. It's as if there's a human inside, but just out of sight. I've never had such an experience."
"Assuming Hal is successful with the passwords, what are you going to do next?"
"It becomes a two headed probe at that point. When we're into the mainframe in Xi’an, I'll need to find where Sing Pao's money is kept. We'll need her most up to date list of accounts. I'm sure that the funds are spread all around the globe. She's going to have to have a master inventory to control all of the money. If it continues to go as smoothly as it has so far in a day or two we're going to be in possession of more than 500 billion dollars.'
"Tell me about step two."
"I'm going to ask Hal to drain all of her money away just as fast as he possibly can. We're then going to hide the money very quickly to keep it from being located and stolen back. With computers as capable as Hal, we'll be able to handle that little chore with no problem."
"Even if we get the money that still won't put her out of business will it?"
"No, she'll still be in business. I don't see any way I can end that unless I could get into the compound and destroy the computers and even that might not shut her down completely. As smart as she is I'm sure she has backups of everything that's running on the mainframe. In my opinion we need to get the money first and then consider our options of taking Sing Pao off the map for good."
"Nat, you don't expect her to sit idly by and let you get away with this do you?"
"No I don't. I think our lives are going to be very interesting for a while."
"If she left us alone and pursued her legitimate business interests she could become fabulously wealthy. We both know that. Her software and her voice actuated computers will be in demand by every bank of any size.'
"You're right and that's the smart thing for her to do, but I'm confident she won't do it. Once larceny is in your bones it's hard to get it out. It's often the thrill that drives criminals. I think she loves the power more than she loves the money."
"Our employers are going to be 500 hundred billion dollars richer very soon. That should please them. Our team will really be in demand then."
"Sabrina, I've wanted to talk to you about that."
"You want to talk to me about it?"
"Yes I do. I've been thinking this over and it seems that if we walk away with this incredible sum, we should get more than a billion apiece."
"Nat, you're flirting with insanity. No one's going to let us walk away with billions unchallenged. Sing Pao will be after us, our employers will be after us, every major crime organization will target us."
"It sounds exciting doesn't it."
"Nat, don't you think we'd better live up to our contract and be satisfied with a billion a piece. We will live considerably longer. "
"Sabrina, think of it this way. The money Sing Pao has accumulated doesn't belong to her. It doesn't belong to our banker friends. Those funds are long divorced from the true owners and there's no logical way to restore the money to the rightful owners. This money has now taken on the identity of sunken treasure. It is spoils, and spoils belong to the person who has the courage to recover it."
"Nat, I'm going to have to think about that."
"There's another matter I've been turning over in my mind."
"I'm afraid to ask."
"Maybe we should take over Sing Pao's business. We're going to have the computer software. We can offer the banking world all the services she's currently offering. I'm talking about a completely legitimate business. No raking of accounts. We could become the central bank for the world. Monetary systems could be stabilized without wild fluctuations in exchange rates the way it is now. That could be a great contribution to the world economy and also make us an incredible amount of money."
"You're suggesting that we compete with Sing for the business?"
"Nat, you're going to get us killed."
"Sabrina, there's risk but you're use to risk."
Sabrina asked, "How can we compete with a going business like hers that is already well entrenched?"
"We'll have to shut her down. We must take her place. It's not about being competitive. We're going to be the only game in town. If we or somebody doesn’t take her place the banking system will be in chaos."
Sabrina smiled. "Nat, you're absolutely out of your mind. You may see nobility in your actions, but I don't think anyone else will. You're going after power, not money, and remember power corrupts."
"Sabrina I'm talking about 25 billion dollars a year in totally legitimate profits."
"Don't you think we would become as greedy as Sing Pao? She doesn't need the money any more. She wants to be the most powerful person in the world. I'm sure she didn't start this business with that objective but when the money came so easily she changed her sights. I strongly suspect that we would too."
"Sabrina, we might not have any choice. If the banking system becomes dependent on Sing's new services, we could destroy them if we shut her down. If we don't shut her down then she will go right on stealing and literally take over every financial market. She's to the place of holding every bank hostage."
"You're too logical. This is a new idea for me. I like to do things I know I can do well. I can't picture me being the world's banker quite yet."
"Think about it. I won't insist if you aren't comfortable with the thought but we will have to decide. We need to make our move in a day or two."
Wednesday, June 27, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
The next morning, Sabrina and Nat arrived at their office shortly after nine o'clock. True to his word, Dr. Ling had secured a very attractive secretary who introduced herself as Oatti Lu.
Sabrina in return introduced herself and Nat.
She then said, "Oatti, we're pleased you'll be working with us. I'm sure you must be very competent if Mr. Ling has selected you."
Oatti gave a shy smile in response.
Nat then asked Oatti, "How well trained are you on computers?"
"I'm not an expert, but I'm proficient in word processing, data base management and spreadsheets."
"Are you familiar with the voice-activated computers used here at the bank?"
"Yes. I've not tried accessing international data bases, but I can certainly function very well in the office setting."
"Oatti, you will be doing many things other than writing letters and answering the phone. We're fast track people and don't rely on written communication. If we need to contact someone, we'll do it by telephone or through E‑mail. Hal can handle both."
"Hal? Sir, am I not the only one working for you?"
Nat grinned. "I'm sorry, Oatti. I call my computer, Hal. With artificial intelligence, he seems so human, He needed a name. So when you hear me referring to Hal, I'm speaking of my newest friend, Dr. Pao's computer."
"Dr. Ling did not tell me what kind of business you're in. Is it appropriate for me to ask?"
"Yes, it's not only appropriate for you to ask, but you're going to be an important part of the business. We've come to the People’s Republic to take advantage of the dramatically expanding business activity within the People's Republic. It is our intention to either purchase outright, or set up partnerships in businesses specializing in the areas of electronics, toys and hand tools. We believe that the People's Republic will follow Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia in becoming industrial leaders. We want to be part of that expansion. We have sources of funds that will allow us to modernize and introduce the latest techniques in any business we're able to secure. Working with the Bank of Shanghai is very convenient. The bank has set up teams that will be scouring the People's Republic for business opportunities. We'll be paying the team members a handsome fee and the Bank of Shanghai will become the banker for any business enterprises we're able to secure. We anticipate these ventures will be profitable for both of us."
Sabrina joined the conversation, "I want you to contact Dr. Ling's office and get the names of those persons we'll be working with, both in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Then I want you to set up files on each of the individuals involved. I would like a profile of each with all of the biographical information you can find. I'm particularly interested in their business experience. It's important that they be a top‑notch team. Talk with each team member individually and tell them we'll expect an E‑mail report filed each evening and available for our inspection the following morning, outlining the activities of the previous day. Impress upon them that we're eager to get our procurements up and moving. Tell them that each day lost is costing all of us money. Also schedule a meeting with the team in two weeks. By then we should have a line on prospects we can visit. If the prospects are of high quality, negotiations can soon follow. Find out if they'll be billing us for expenses in the next few days. If so, take care of those expenses immediately. We have five million dollars of operating capital, both in Hong Kong and here in Shanghai. I want nothing to slow us down. Oatti, I want you to contact real estate brokers both in Hong Kong and in Shanghai. We need a permanent place to live in both cities. Make sure our quarters are nice and reasonably close to downtown. If there's anything in the British section or the German section, that would be preferable. However, don't limit your search to those two sections. Your main task is to find something appropriate for us. In Hong Kong, we would like a high-rise apartment on the island, not in Kowloon. Once these properties have been secured, have computers installed in both residences directly networked with our office here in Shanghai."
"Yes, Madame, that will be done right away."
"Also keep Dr. Ling fully informed of everything we're doing. We want him aware of our activities because he may be able to help us expedite matters. Also, schedule a luncheon appointment with Dr. Ling in about a week. Suggest that we have weekly meetings during the first few months of our operation. We're going to need his advice, and connections to help get us off the ground.
"There's another little task I'd like for you to do. This project will give you some experience in working with Hal on data bases. Nat and I are very interested in buying at least one business in each of the People's Republic's free trade zones. Ask Hal to give us as much background information as he can on the business climate in each zone and a recommendation as to which zone would be most advantageous for us to make the first purchase a business."
Sabrina smiled and said, "Oatti, you'll like working with Hal. He's very useful, and you will be amazed at his ability to secure information by searching data bases."
"I'll get right on it, Madam, and let you know what I've accomplished before lunch."
"Oh, by the way, while talking to Dr. Ling, tell him you'll be handling our finances so you need to know our account numbers, and ask him to set up personal passwords for you that are separate from the passwords Dr. Turner and I'll be using. Once you've given Hal the passwords, you won't have to use it again because Hal has extraordinary voice recognition capabilities."
Nat was moving toward the door of his office and Sabrina followed. He made appropriate utterances about how much they were looking forward to working with Oatti, and were confident that their relationship would be both happy and fruitful. Once inside his office, Nat dropped into the large chair behind his desk in a casual pose. Sabrina sat down in side chair and crossed her legs and gave Nat a devastating smile.
"Sabrina, don't do that. Lord, God in heaven, we need to be about business and those legs, topped by that beautiful smile, makes my mind wander."
Sabrina laughed deliciously.
"That was a good idea to hit the ground running. I also liked your having her inform Dr. Ling of all we're doing. It suggests that he has our trust and confidence. It will make him want an open relationship. I imagine we'll be in business within the next two weeks."
"Nat, do you think it's going to take two weeks to break into Dr. Pao's computer?"
"No, I really don't anticipate the break in being a problem. However, we do have some important decisions to make. When we break into the computer and get the money, are we going to take it and run, or are we going to siphon it off slowly and set up a business base in the People's Republic?"
"You mean you actually want to go through with what we're telling Pao and her bankers?"
"It's a possibility anyway. When we get the money, we're going to have to decide what to do with it. Business opportunities in the People's Republic make a lot of sense to me."
"Nat, are you suggesting that we rob Dr. Pao of more than five hundred billion dollars and then sit here in her bank building and ask for help from her employees to spend the money? I suspect the next time she lays eyes on us after her money is gone, we're both going to be dead."
"Sabrina, I'm not sure she's going to know we're the ones who took the money, unless we take off like scalded rabbits. If her money disappears and we disappear too, it's going to be obvious we were the perpetrators of the crime. Then I'm sure we'll move to the top of the most wanted list for every mercenary in the world."
"Nat, seriously, what good is five hundred billion dollars if we're dead?"
"Sabrina, I wouldn't do anything that I didn't think had a reasonable chance for success. A few days ago, I met the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and it's my intention to spend the rest of my life with her. Under those circumstances, I'll promise you one thing, I want that life to be very long and very happy. And, of course, with five hundred billion dollars, I expect it to be very comfortable."
"Am I getting the drift that you think five hundred billion dollars is going to make us so valuable that they can't afford to kill us."
"You're right. We're much more valuable to Dr. Pao alive than dead. They'll do everything possible to find the money and take it away from us."
Sabrina said, "You need to get busy and devise a way to invest the money."
Nat replied, "Right, within a day or two, I expect to siphon off all the funds of Dr. Pao. I'll work with Hal on a scheme that will make an audit trail impossible. That shouldn't be too difficult. Dr. Pao taught me how to do it."
Sabrina continued, "You really need to put on your thinking cap and devise a way to keep up with the money. It will be scattered all over the world. We don't want anyone locating our records and taking it away from us."
"I have some good ideas."
"Tell me about them."
Nat slowly began to speak, "The first thing we'll do after we break into the computers and locate the account lists, is to electronically transfer the money to accounts Hal has opened in one thousand different banks. These will be blind accounts created by Hal and known only to him. The account numbers and locations are his alone."
Nat continued, "Five hundred billion dollars divided by a thousand is still leaving the money in very large chunks. That's going to place five hundred million dollars in each of the banks Hal selects, and if any accounting period passes, and that includes end‑of‑the‑day totaling, alarms will go off all over the world."
"There're not many banks that will have their account balances increase by five hundred million dollars in a day. If our accounts were discovered, those funds would be frozen until they could be investigated to see who they belong to. It would smack of organized crime and, most likely, drug money. National governments would love to confiscate five hundred million for their own use. We can't let the money suddenly appear with no name attached. We're going to have to keep those funds moving, and only Hal is going to know where the money is."
Sabrina broke in, "Are you going to keep all the money in the United States, or scatter it around the world?"
"I'd love to keep the money in the United States because it's politically stable." Nat's face brightened. "Wait a minute! Let's put the funds in the Bank of Shanghai."
"Are you crazy?"
"No. Sing would never look for the funds in her own bank."
"I believe they'd notice forty billion dollars showing up in each of their branches one day."
"I'm not going to place the money in an account. I'm going to have Hal set up hidden files outside the accounting system. This will be just a resting place for the money until you can get it invested. The clever aspect is that Dr. Pao would never look for the money there."
Nat went on. "Sabrina, you can have Hal making our investments."
"You've figured out how to disperse the money, but if Hal knows where all our investments are, it makes us vulnerable to recovery by Dr. Pao."
"I've been thinking about that. We'll get Hal to transfer this information to other computers for safe keeping."
"What do you have in mind?"
Nat suggested, "What about notebook computers?"
"That's a good idea."
Nat again said, "We can get two and make them redundant."
"You can copy the software from Hal and then we'd have everything we need."
Nat continued the brainstorming, "After the funds have been invested, we can keep up with the locations on our notebooks that we carry with us."
Sabrina added, "We can have them both make trades everyday for us in financial markets and then share the new information with each other."
"Hal's software can be installed on any computer that has a microphone. We can keep our notebooks with us and make transactions on a daily basis."
Nat looked at Sabrina and said," Let's get our notebooks today and get the software installed. Why don't we ask Oatti to get Dr. Ling to provide us two 586 notebooks with voice recognition installed. It's a good idea to be able to have Hal travel with us and stay in our possession all the time."
Sabrina walked out the door and gave Oatti the directions. She stressed the need for securing the notebooks as soon as possible.
"I think it's a good idea to use notebooks. If someone came barging in, I'd feel much more comfortable if all we had to do was drop the computer into a briefcase and walk away to never return."
They shook their heads in agreement.
Wednesday, June 28 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
Nat and Sabrina arrived at their office shortly after nine o'clock. Oatti had the new notebook computers on her desk. She ceremoniously presented the technological marvels to each of her new employers. They both expressed appreciation for her prompt attention to this important request. Sabrina asked Oatti to come into her office for her morning's assignments while Nat went directly to his office.
Nat took his notebook computer and placed it on the workbench next to Hal. He then turned toward the work station and said "Hal, were you successful?"
"Very successful, but I may have more than you want."
"If you do, we can use some descriptors and lessen the load."
"Are you ready to start, sir?"
"Not yet, Hal, First I want you to transfer all the information you have collected so far to my notebook computer. I'm going to be on the move and I'm going to need a computer that's portable."
"Very good, sir, you can cable us together using the serial port, but it's really easier to link us together with standard telephone wire with universal jacks."
"Then that's what I'll do."
Nat rose and went into Sabrina's office. Sabrina was discussing the day's activities with Oatti.
Nat said "Sabrina, I'm going to put your telephone out of business for a few minutes if you don't mind."
"Fine, I'm not expecting any calls. If I need the phone, I can use Oatti's."
Nat unsnapped the telephone line from the wall and from the handset on Sabrina's desk and returned to his office. He then inserted the universal jacks into the two computers and they were properly linked together.
"Hal, make the transfers. I want the notebook computer to be as identical to you as you can make it. Then transfer the information you received from Tech to the notebook computer."
"That shouldn't take long, sir."
"Hal, will we have any problem using parallel processing with the two of you linked together?"
"None whatsoever, sir. We can double our speed."
"Good. Go ahead and make the transfers, and when you've finished let me know."
"I'll get started right away, sir."
Nat walked down the hall down to Oatti's office and poured himself a cup of coffee. Oatti was still in Sabrina's office. He sat down in Oatti's chair and turned toward the busy waterfront. The traffic on the Zhongshan Donglu below was already teaming. Large ships were in sight everywhere on the Huang Pu. About a mile north of the Bank of Shanghai was a naval base with several small war ships at anchor. Nat picked up the phone and dialed the bank's operator. When the operator answered, Nat identified himself and asked if he could speak to Dr. Ling. Within a moment Dr. Ling's secretary was on the phone greeting Nat warmly and said that she would ring Dr. Ling right away. Dr. Ling's cheerful voice came on the phone.
"Good morning, Dr. Turner. I hope everything is satisfactory with your office accommodations."
"Yes, everything is wonderful. Sabrina and I want to thank you for the two notebook computers. We want to work as we travel around the People's Republic, but we don't want to use the bank's proprietary software without permission."
"That's quite all right, Dr. Turner. The bank is happy to furnish you the notebook computers."
"I feel we're imposing on you entirely too much."
"No, Dr. Turner, please don't feel that way. You're not only a good customer, but it appears we're going to be partners in some of your acquisitions. The cost of computers and office space is a small price to pay when such large sums are at stake."
"That's very nice of you, Dr. Ling. By the way, we'll be transferring more money into the bank in the next few days. Does each of your branches keep their own balances, or are all records kept in the central location at Xi’an?"
"Actually the balances are kept in both places. Each bank has its own accounting system but they're duplicated in master accounts in Xi’an on an array of computers. In this day of electronics you can't have too much backup. We do memory dumps to tape several times a day and move them to underground vaults. The sums of money are too great to risk the records being kept in the computers themselves even though they're widely separated."
"Would you do me a favor, then Dr. Ling?"
"Certainly, I would be happy to."
"Can you get me a priority line into the mainframe in Xi’an allowing me to monitor my account? The sums we'll be transferring will be quite sizable but I don't want to have to access all of the various banks to find out what funds I have available for the purchases we'll be making. If all of this is being backed up in Xi’an, and you can give me a priority line, I'll be able to check the master balance several times a day. This would be much more convenient."
"I'm sure Dr. Pao will approve. I'll talk with her as soon as we hang up. Would you like to give me a password, or would you like one assigned?"
"No, let me give you the password. E = mc2."
Dr. Ling laughed. "You do have a scientific bent Dr. Turner. I like someone who is creative in all aspects of their work. You're going to make a good partner."
"Thank you Dr. Ling. When Dr. Pao approves the direct access line please let me know in my E‑mail box in the computer. Hal will tell me when the line is available for use."
"It shouldn't take more than five minutes, Dr. Turner. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Not for the moment, but if I think of anything I'll get back with you. By the way, I want to thank you for assembling the team to work with us on securing properties. When do you think I'll hear from them?"
"Maybe today, they are already hard at work. When they uncover a business with good potential, they'll get in touch with you. Will you require a personal inspection?"
"That'll depend on the description of the business and the recommendation of our team. I'm certain there'll be some acquisitions I'll want to see just to get a feel for what we're buying. Others we might purchase strictly on the team analysis and recommendation. If the numbers look right and the recommendation is strong, we might dispense with the visual inspection. I'll expect the team to have been on sight however. I want those reports to be very full and include photographs and descriptions."
"We'll certainly do that Dr. Turner. I promise you that nothing will be recommended that's not considered blue chip by the bank. It will be a property that we would be happy to own ourselves."
"Dr. Ling, tell me about the status of our ownership of these businesses? Communist countries are rather jealous of their production facilities."
"You're quite right, Dr. Turner. Foreign ownership of Chinese businesses is very rare in the People's Republic. To my knowledge there's only one person in our country who has influence enough to get those permissions."
"And that's Dr. Pao?"
"That's Dr. Pao."
"How did Dr. Pao gain such tremendous influence in such a short period of time?"
"Those are Dr. Pao's secrets, not mine, Dr. Turner. I promise you I'm not being coy. I just don't know. Wealthy people get great deference even in communist countries. Dr. Pao has substantial influence with every important person in the People's Republic. I think you can count on her to gain the proper permissions."
"Will we get the permissions one at a time, or will we get some sort of blanket permission?"
"I'm sure it will be one business at a time. But I'm equally sure that if Dr. Pao recommends it, the ownership will be allowed to be transferred to you and your company."
"Thank you Mr. Ling. I'll be talking with you soon."
Nat then pressed his finger down on the phone button and listened for the dial tone. The familiar hum greeted his ear. He got up out of his chair and refreshed his coffee and carried the steaming cup back to his office.
When he walked through the door, he looked across the room and spoke to the computer. "Hal, how are we doing?"
"We're finished, sir. All of the software has been transferred as well as your profile and banking data."
"What about Dr. Pao's academic work at Cal Tech?"
'That has been transferred, sir."
"Hal let’s talk for a few minutes and decide our next step."
"Sir, would you like to give your new notebook computer a friendly designation as you have done with me? That way we'll be able to differentiate instructions from you when we're working together in the room."
"Good idea, Hal. Let me think of a good name."
"What about 'Holbrook', sir?"
"That's a great idea, Hal."
Nat smiled broadly.
"My two computers will be 'Hal' and 'Holbrook'."
Nat turned and looked at the notebook computer and said, "Holbrook is that agreeable to you."
"Yes sir, quite agreeable to me."
Nat looked back at Hal and said, "Hal, within a few minutes we're going to have a direct line into the compound in Xi’an. I want us to be able to go in and out of the compound's computers without raising any alarms. Now tell me what you learned from Cal Tech."
"Sir, we won't know if we can break the passwords until we try, but I've analyzed very carefully the work of Dr. Pao at Cal Tech. I arranged her work in ascending order of date saved in the computer. The last entry was eight months ago."
"Hal let me ask you to do this. Take a quick look at the programs she's written and then discard all of those that are essentially duplicated in subsequent programs. I'm sure that as she added new steps and abilities she was basing her later work on earlier codes. I think we would be safe in doing that."
"Would you allow me to share this task with Holbrook and use our parallel processing capabilities?"
"That will be fine Hal."
In less than thirty seconds Hal responded to Nat. "Sir, we're dealing with 503 programs stored under Dr. Pao's name. We've now discarded all but seven and we may be able to discard some of those after you give us additional delimiters."
"What kept you from discarding any of those seven, Hal?'
"The seven were combinations of algorithms based upon linguistic analysis. While many of them had similar characteristics, there were enough differences that further elimination did not appear to be safe without further delimiters."
"Hal, you and Holbrook look at those seven and select the program that's most promising in breaking passwords. Take your time."
Within less than 30 seconds Hal responded. "We've two programs that are very promising."
"Why did you keep two?"
"They used different approaches, sir."
"Can you combine them into one program, Hal?"
"Yes, sir, That should not be difficult."
"Let's get busy then."
"Right away, sir."
Seven seconds passed then Hal responded. "The two programs are now one, sir."
"Hal, I want you and Holbrook to analyze this program carefully and develop a profile of activities. Would you do that please?"
"Yes sir, right away."
Almost instantaneously Hal responded, "The profile is complete, sir."
"Hal, I know the financial data in Xi’an is protected very carefully by passwords. Can you get into the computer at Xi’an, using our dedicated line, analyze the software programs being run on the mainframes, and develop profiles on them."
"Yes sir. I should have no problem doing that."
"Once you have the profiles on their software ready, I want you to compare them with the profile of the program you have outlined from Dr. Pao's work at Cal Tech. If you can find a program with ninety plus percent correlation, download that software back here to the office?"
"Yes sir, I can do that."
"Are you confident you can come up with the right program for me?"
"I am very confident."
"Hal, before you look for the program in Xi’an, I want you and Holbrook to analyze the program we already have and see if you can enhance its capabilities. I'm certain that improvements have been made periodically on Dr. Pao's program and I want you to have the best probability of a match we can get. With your intelligence it seems logical to me that you'd make many of the same improvements they would. I want our program in the best possible shape before we go to Xi’an and look for a match."
"I'll be delighted to, sir. Holbrook and I'll get busy immediately."
Nat got up from his chair and walked to the door leading to Sabrina's office. Sabrina was on the telephone with Dr. Pao. She looked up at Nat and put her hand over the mouthpiece shaking her head up and down indicating an affirmative response.
Sabrina returned to her conversation on the phone and said, "Sing, I'll be in your office at one o'clock. There're some things I'd like to talk over with you. I know that you could be of great help to me."
There was a pause in Sabrina's speech. "No, Nat will not be coming with me."
Sabrina was quiet while Dr. Pao spoke.
She then looked up at Nat with her eyebrows raised, "Nat, Queeling would like to see you this afternoon. Dr. Pao said that Queeling will be working closely with us and she has some matters she needs to discuss with you. Is that alright?"
Nat spread his hands and smiled in a quizzical way and shook his head in the affirmative.
Sabrina spoke to Dr. Pao, "He'll be delighted to work with Queeling this afternoon and I'm looking forward to our visit. Thank you for inviting me and I'll be there at one."
Sabrina replaced the phone in its cradle and looked at Nat.
"This should be interesting. Sing is such a warm and friendly person. She makes you feel as if you've known her forever. Your invitation from Queeling was a surprise. We must have been accepted totally by Dr. Pao and she wants us to get busy and not lose any time."
Sabrina paused and continued, "How are things going with you?"
Nat shook his head left and right with a grin of amazement on his face.
"By all appearances things are going very well. Hal has a program he thinks will work with some modifications, and he and Holbrook are busily refining it."
Sabrina looked at Nat wide eyed with mock amazement and said, "Holbrook! You have a Hal and a Holbrook?"
"Yes, Hal and Holbrook, they are twin personalities and they're in my office busily working away."
"Dr. Pao is a genius isn't she?"
"Very much so, what she's done with artificial intelligence and voice actuated computers is remarkable. While I'm sure experimental work in this field is going on in the United States, I don't even think that they're in Beta test. Artificial intelligence is incredible. You can assign the computers a task and not even have to give them directions as to how to accomplish the task. They can learn and then apply new knowledge to future tasks and they never forget anything. There is no Alzheimer's problem with computers."
"What do you have them doing now?"
"They've combined Sing Pao's two most promising programs, and I'm having them make improvements on the combined program. Then they're going to develop a profile describing the salient points and techniques in the programs she developed at Cal Tech. When this is done I want them to break into the mainframe in Xi’an and find the program that most closely corresponds to the one they've been working on. When they find her latest algorithm, we'll be home free. We can break into any networked computer in the world like popping pop corn. Once they copy this program and down load it back to us, we'll be in business."
Sabrina responded, "Talk to me about the next step. If in a few minutes we're able to access all of Sing Pao's files and down load them, won't this inquiry be written in a traceable log?"
"I'm sure that a log will note the inquiry, but we'll be using the proper password, so no alarm will be set off. To cover our tracks, however, I'm going to ask Hal to violate the log and erase any record of our activity. The only protection for the log is a password too."
"What's your first move once we're in the mainframe? Find the list of deposits?"
"Absolutely, I want Hal to set us up a mirror that will keep track of all the opening and closing of accounts taking place in Xi’an. I want that right here in the office resident both in Hal and Holbrook. When we have the money, we'll blank Hal's memory and start relying on Holbrook altogether."
"Are going to be able to make the hit this afternoon?"
Nat answered, "No, tomorrow."
"Are you really going to keep the money in the computers of the Bank of Shanghai?"
"That's what we need to talk about. Before the great train robbery takes place, I want Holbrook to set up hidden files in all twelve of the branches in the bank of Shanghai. These files will not be related in any way to the bank's accounting system. It's the last place Sing would look for her stolen money. These files will be the holding accounts until we can properly distribute the money in safe places. I don't want to leave the money in the Bank of Shanghai's computer very long. I want to move it as fast as we possibly can without being detected. We do have to keep in mind that her software is running in many of the major banks around the world. She'll have a stethoscope on the banking systems networks looking for abnormal transfers of funds. Do you see any problems?"
"No, but what do you think Sing will do as soon as she finds the money gone?"
"Don't you think she'll notice the coincidence of us arriving on the scene and within a few days all of her money is gone?"
"She may notice the coincidence but I don't think she'll give us credit for being this clever."
Sabrina half closed her eyes and looked at Nat as if she were in deep thought.
"Are you sure you want to take all the money out at the same time. Wouldn't it be better to take smaller amounts out and be sure that we've a safe place for the funds before we make the big hit?"
Nat shrugged his shoulders, "It would be possible for us to take the money out in small amounts, but if Dr. Sing Pao is as good as I think she is, the losses would be detected in short order. It wouldn't take her long to freeze the assets and stop withdrawals from the Xi’an complex before we could shut her down. We'd have a few billion but she would still have most of her accumulated funds and her system still in place. We'd have been nothing but a minor annoyance. That's not what we're after."
"It's your intention to take five hundred billion dollars and move the money to the twelve branches of the Bank of Shanghai. This is 40 billion in each branch. This money won't be detectable by the banks accounting system, right?"
Nat shook his head in the affirmative and said "You're right. The money will be hidden. The files will be undetectable because she won't be looking for the money in her own computers."
Sabrina continued. "How are we going to keep her from tracing all of these transactions?"
"We're going to use the magician's sleight of hand. We're going to have her looking one place while the money is going to be in another place. I'm going to have Holbrook set up accounts, transfer the money by small increments to other accounts, and then erase the first accounts. We'll do this several times until the money is so shuffled that an audit trail is absolutely impossible."
"Nat, if you place all these funds in hidden files in the Bank of Shanghai's computers, but they don't appear in an actual bank account, how will we be able to use the money?"
"When we're ready to use the money we'll have Holbrook set up a blind account within the bank and move the money from the hidden file to a blind account and immediately transfer the funds from the blind account to a bank somewhere else in the world. We'll then keep Holbrook busy. We'll immediately start transferring the money to many other accounts in small increments, probably a tenth of one per cent. We need to keep shuffling the money from account to account to make it difficult to trace and locate. Sing Pao is going to be looking for the funds with her computers and we're going to have to make them unidentifiable."
"Are you serious about doing all of this tomorrow?"
Nat answered, "Very serious."
"Then I should get busy setting us up a business in Atlanta."
"Can you do that from here or do you need to go to Atlanta?"
"It'll be no problem to set the business up from here. I do a lot of business in Atlanta and know several lawyers who live there. Joe Hobbit is an excellent corporate lawyer. I'll be candid with him and tell him how I want a blind corporation set up. I'll have him draw up a charter and get it to the Secretary of State's office within an hour or so."
Sabrina almost closed her eyes her eyes and said, "No I can't do that. The time difference has us in a bind. Right now it's night in Atlanta. I'll take the liberty of waking him up and asking him to get on this matter first thing in the morning. We're more like twelve hours away from being in business. I'll also get him to go ahead and get us a post office box.”
She smiled, "A very large post office box that can accommodate a lot of mail."
"That'll take care of us temporarily until we can get our money invested. Five hundred billion dollars is hard to hide."
"Do you want me to get someone to pick up the bank and brokerage statements during the week?"
"I think that's a good idea. Can Joe take care of that for us?"
"I'm sure he can."
"Tell him this will be only for a few weeks and then we'll make more permanent arrangements."
"Do you foresee us leaving Shanghai in the next day or so?"
"Maybe we won't have to. I suggest we try staying right here and working with Dr. Pao. If we cut bait and run, she'll be on our trail immediately. We still need to find a permanent place of residence. We're going to have to leave Shanghai sooner or later, but I don't think it should be abrupt."
"Then you want me to cultivate the friendship of Sing Pao."
"Yes, we want to keep everything as normal as possible for the moment."
"Nat, have you thought far enough ahead to know how we can use the money on a short term basis?"
"No, Sabrina, that's your department. I was brought in to your little caper for technical reasons. I think I'll be better off concentrating on the use of the computers and let you concentrate on making our investments for us."
"I'll start with the brokers I'm already using, but I'll need to expand very rapidly after that. I'll use my computer to set us up at least fifty accounts in New York. I'll let them know our original deposits will be about twenty five million dollars each. I am sure that an amount as small as twenty five million will go unnoticed on Wall Street. I'll need about a billion and a quarter tomorrow. I'll get us a good mix of bonds and equities. They'll want some descriptors of the kinds of stocks we want. I'll mix it up asking them to buy growth stocks, high dividend stocks and a fair sampling of public utilities. I'll also tell them to get into federal notes heavily. I want all of our accounts to appear to be conservatively managed."
Sabrina stopped, cocked her head, and assumed a very serious look on her face. "Nat, if I set up fifty accounts every day and deposit only a billion and a half dollars, it'll take a year to get the money invested. We can't wait that long."
"No, Sabrina, but it's a start."
"Yes, but seven and one half billion dollars a week would take sixty five to seventy weeks. That's more than a year. It also means that we'll be keeping track of 12,500 accounts with twenty five million each."
Nat pursed his mouth and cocked his head and said,"We can't take a year to set up the 12,500 accounts. Why don't you have your original 50 brokers go ahead and set up fifty accounts each? You can do that in a day. If you find brokers in all of the trading markets around the world and set up that many accounts we'll be concentrating the funds in the hand of 250 brokers. That sounds manageable."
"Sure. I can do that today. I'm also going to get us into commodities and precious metals. We're going to be diversified. We want to move our assets to places that Sing Pao can't reach. Even with all our shuffling of funds and closing of accounts we can't rule out her effectiveness in running down her money. She's a genius and has the best computer minds in the world working for her. We want most of our assets to be represented by certificates of ownership. I want us away from electronic blips located in a computer somewhere. Those are too ethereal and vulnerable. Even with that many accounts we'll have only invested about two thirds of our money. We'll still have a hundred and fifty to a hundred and sixty billion dollars that we'll have in the banking system."
"Yes, but that will be spread among thousands of banks, and we'll have Holbrook keeping those moving all the time."
"This is not going to be easy."
"The rich have their problems too, don't they?"
"Well, if you want this done right away, I need to get busy."
"Good. I need to have a conference with Hal and Holbrook anyway. I hope they'll be ready for us to go to work."
Nat returned to his office and sat down at his desk and looked at Hal.
"Hal, have you and Holbrook been successful?"
"Yes, sir, we've been very successful. We were able to find the algorithms you need to do your work.
"Good Hal. Let me talk to Holbrook a minute. Holbrook, I want you to set up an account in 2000 banks. Can you take care of it for me?"
"Yes, sir, that won't take but a few minutes."
"These are only to be account numbers, you understand. There is to be no biographical data associated with the account. "
"Yes sir, I understand."
"Assuming Hal is successful in withdrawing 500 billion in assets from Dr. Pao's Xi’an complex I'm going to want you to spread the money evenly through one thousand accounts. Then I want you to take a tenth of one percent from the money in each account and spread it through the second 1000 accounts you set up. When that's completed I want you to erase from memory any trace of the first thousand accounts. I want you to immediately go to 1000 different banks and their branches and set up 1000 new accounts. Then go back the residual accounts where you placed the money and take one tenth of one percent and spread the funds equally through the 1000 new accounts in the new banks. Can you do this five times? Remember I want the old account numbers erased from the bank computer after every series of transactions."
"Yes, sir, I can do that."
"After we've shuffled the money five times I want you to go into the computers of the Bank of Shanghai and place the money in hidden files that are not in the accounting system. Then I want you to set up a hidden file in your memory that can only be accessed by the password 'Mark Twain.' In this file I want you to list only the twelve account numbers representing our hidden deposits in the Bank of Shanghai, no descriptors whatsoever, just account numbers."
"Yes sir, I understand completely."
"After that Hal, I want you to make sure that nowhere in your memory there's any kind of audit trail that can be established that would help anyone determine how we've moved this money from bank to bank. I also expect that there will be no accounts open , they'll all be closed and erased from memory from those 2000 banks we used to shuffle the money. Is that possible?"
"Yes, sir, I will do that and will erase everything from memory."
He turned to Hal and said "After we get the money and transfer it to Holbrook and let him do his financial shuffling, will you erase all traces of our transactions from your memory where they cannot be recovered. "
"Yes sir, I can do that."
"Now that we understand each other, let's find out just how clever the three of us are. Hal, are you ready? "
"Holbrook, are you ready?"
"OK, Hal, tell me what you found out."
"Sir, I've found the algorithm that closely matches the work done by Dr. Pao at Cal Tech. There have been modifications from time to time but it's only a sophisticated version of the algorithm we found at the university."
"You have this algorithm in memory, Hal?"
"Yes sir, it's in memory and it's ready to be used. "
"OK, Hal. The first thing I want you to do is to use the algorithm to log onto the computers in Xi’an”
"I understand, sir."
"The second thing I want you to do is to find me an account listing of Dr. Pao's deposits. I want to know where all her money is and all the banks on line that are using her software."
"Yes, sir, I'll do that."
"As soon as you find out these two items I want them transferred to Holbrook."
"Yes, sir, that will be done."
"Then I want you to take the listing of the accounts and go into those various banks and get all of Dr. Pao's money. Each time you zero the account from the bank, I want that transferred to Holbrook and let him start spreading the money in the accounts that he has established."
"It is my understanding, sir that you want to zero the accounts. You don't want to leave any money, whatsoever. "
"That's exactly what I want you to do."
Nat turned to Holbrook, "Holbrook, Sabrina will need some of the money that you have put in the Bank of Shanghai. She will be setting up brokerage accounts right now. Every time she sets up an account I want you to cover it with twenty five million dollars from the Bank of Shanghai's hidden files. Are we networked with Sabrina's computer, allowing you do this?"
"Yes, sir, I'll do a quick handshake to make sure everything is on line and I'll take care of that business for you. Are there any other instructions, sir?'
"Not at the moment, Holbrook. I'm depending on Hal, you and Sabrina to carry the load."
"Very good sir, Have a good day."
Nat walked back into Sabrina's office and explained what he had told Holbrook to do.
Sabrina said "We'll be ready for you whenever you need us. I thought I'd be working for a week getting 12,500 accounts set up in the brokerage firms, but I discussed the matter with Suzy Q and she said she could handle all that for me. All she needed was some basic biographical information which I gave her.
Nat smiled and said "Suzy Q?"
"Yes, Suzy Q. She's my newest and best friend. Nat, I honestly told her what we wanted to do and she asked for the biographical information relating to setting up the accounts and said she would see that this is done right away. Within a few minutes we're going to have 12,500 brokerage accounts scattered all over the world and Suzy Q is going to have done all of the work."
Nat turned towards Sabrina's computer. "Suzy Q, I'm Nat Turner. I'm glad to know you. I appreciate your working with us and being part of the team."
"Thank you Dr. Turner, I'm glad to be on the team."
"Suzy, there're two friends of mine I want you to meet. Wait just a moment."
Nat walked to the door connecting Sabrina's office with his and pushed it open.
"Hal, Holbrook, I want you to meet Suzy Q. "
Hal replied, "Sir, I've already met Suzy Q, I just didn't know that was her name."
Holbrook then answered, "Sir, I just had a handshake with Suzy Q, but I'll now be able to converse with her in a more gentlemanly fashion."
"Hal, Holbrook, Suzy Q, are you ready?"
All three chimed in "Yes, sir, we're ready."
"Good. I want all three of you to be ready to act on short notice."
All three computers responded in unison, "At your beck and call," and became silent.
Wednesday, June 28, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
"Sing, we need to talk."
"Fine, Q. What do you want to talk about?"
"I want to talk about the two Americans."
"Great! They've been on my mind too."
"That's what bothers me, Sing."
"What bothers you, Q?"
"There's something strange going on that I don't understand."
"What do you mean 'strange'?"
"I've never seen you act this way before."
"How is that?"
"Your relationship with the Americans is very different from anybody else, and that bothers me."
"Bothers you? Are you jealous?"
"I don't know? Should I be?"
"We've always been honest with each other. I'll counter your statement and say if it bothers you, then we need to talk about it."
"You're the most sought after person in the People's Republic. You decide who your friends are going to be, and you're careful about whom you let get close to you. You're a private person. You disdain invitations from royalty. Business is your real passion. You create your environment and don't let anyone alter it. Those are facts."
"Yes, those are facts. That's the way it is and that's the way it's going to be. Wouldn't everybody like to have the power and the money to create their own environment? We can go and come as we please, and we choose our friends carefully. Everything you said is true. But you didn't say anything that sounds troubling. It sounded great as far as I'm concerned."
"What about the Americans?"
"What about the Americans?"
"Sing, I'm telling you it's different."
"I know it's different but what are you driving at?"
"You've known these two people only a short period of time, and yet they call you on the telephone, they invite you to dinner, they're welcome guests at your parties. It's obvious you're beginning to feel close to them and this has never happened before."
"It may not have happened before, but it doesn't preclude it from happening now. You said I create my own environment and if I want to include the Americans in my environment, what's wrong with that?"
"Nothing's wrong with it if that's what you want. But I insist it's different and you don't seem to want to deal with the difference."
"I know it's different and I don't mind dealing with it, but you're going to have to be more explicit."
"Come on, Sing. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're the most intelligent person I've ever known and I don't have to draw you any pictures."
"They're good customers."
"I know they're good customers but you've had other good customers and they didn't impact you like this before."
"Are you going to analyze me?"
"No, I'm not going to analyze you. You don't need analyzing. You know what I'm talking about, but you refuse to deal with it. Not only is the relationship unusual, but your refusal to deal with it is unusual."
"All right Q, we'll deal with it. I want you to analyze me. I want you to tell me not only that I'm acting differently but I want to tell me why."
"I'm not a psychiatrist, and I don't know if I can analyze you, but I'm your most devoted friend and I'm willing to talk."
"All right, let's talk."
"Where do you want to start?"
"Do you think your only interest in them is because they're good customers?"
"No, I don't think that's my only interest. But it doesn't belie the fact that they're good customers. They were first drawn to my attention when they deposited five million dollars in my bank in Hong Kong. Then they flew into Shanghai and deposited five million more. They hired our bank to secure fifty to a hundred million dollars worth of property in the People's Republic and this means over a period of time we're going to make a lot of money."
"Fifty million dollars is peanuts to you Sing. Anyway, your bank will only get a commission off their transactions. That's not the real reason you have an interest in them."
"Q, you're jealous. The money has a lot to do with my interest in them. They're our best customer. If we satisfy them with our service they'll be instrumental in helping us represent many more American businesses in the People's Republic. If I'm going to be a serious player in the banking world, I'm going to need good customers. There is nowhere that has the potential for as many good customers as the United States. Nat and Sabrina are well connected and can bring us the level of customer we can't find in our own country. We need big players. You know that as well as I do."
"Sing, don't get irritated with me. I'm trying to pursue this topic because I don't want you to make a mistake."
"I'm not irritated with you, but I have to tell you things you know already. I do believe you're jealous and that's coloring your view of the relationship."
"Maybe I am jealous, but I'm not sure it's coloring my view of the relationship."
"Go on. I didn't intend to be sharp with you. I'm interested in what you're feeling. I know you have my best interests at heart. I promise you I'll keep that in mind as we talk. But you mustn't wear your feelings on your sleeves either. Otherwise, I'll not be able to talk with you openly. If this conversation is going to be productive, we must be able to say anything we think or feel. We've always been that way. Let's not let a tinge of jealousy disrupt a wonderful relationship."
"You've used the word 'jealousy' damn well enough as far as I'm concerned. I admitted I might have a touch of jealousy, but now I regret even saying that. I don't intend to be told how unstable I am anytime the two Americans come up in our conversation."
"I'll back off from the jealousy bit. What do you see as my motivation in befriending the Americans, if it's not for business purposes?"
"I've granted you that they're good customers and you're quite right in your assessment that they'll attract more business from the United States to the Bank of Shanghai. That's a fact. I know it. You know it too, so we'll accept that as the basis of your relationship."
"Well, if it's more than good customers, are you suggesting that I might be physically attracted to the two of them?"
"You're damn well right you're attracted to the two of them."
"Is there anything wrong with being attracted to two handsome and beautiful people?"
"No, not if it doesn't go too far."
"What do you mean by going too far?"
"I mean euphemistically giving them a blank check."
"What do you mean a blank check?"
Q said, "Embracing them as if they're old friends when you really know nothing about them at all."
"You think I'm doing this because I'm physically attracted to them?"
"We both know that's a distinct possibility. Nat is terrific. You don't find many men who are that ruggedly handsome. He must make a lot of women's' hearts beat faster, but I didn't expect you to go off the deep end over him."
"What about Sabrina?"
"Sabrina is the most beautiful western woman I've ever seen. She's perfect in every detail. Frankly the only other woman that can match her in stunning good looks is you, and yet you're so totally different in character and form."
"Do you really view me as beautiful as Sabrina?"
"You're different. You're eastern, she's western. Both of you can create a traffic jam."
"You're saying that I'm attracted to Sabrina physically."
"I know you're attracted to Sabrina physically. Anyone would be attracted to Sabrina physically, and you're no exception."
"You're saying that these two Americans have magically appeared in my life and I'm about to turn over everything I own to them. Is that what you're saying?"
"No, I'm not saying you're going to turn over your business to them. But I do know that the familiarity you're allowing them makes you vulnerable to them. It's the vulnerability that concerns me the most."
"What do you mean 'vulnerable to them'?"
"Sing, you don't know anything about them. They don't have the long history of love and loyalty to you that I do. While they may be everything they represent themselves to be, I don't want them in a position to take any advantage of you."
"Are you talking about taking advantage of me emotionally or financially?'
"I'm talking about both. It's possible that they could involve you in business dealings that could cause you to lose a great deal of money."
"Q, use some good sense. I want to use them to build a reputation in the banking world. Their resources are great enough to be useful to me in this pursuit. I have the reputation I need from an operational point of view. But that reputation comes from computer software and the voice-activated computers. I also want to be a successful banker. It's going to take all three for me to become the preeminent banker in the world. I'm a woman. I'm a business woman and I want to be the dominant figure in this male bastion. They can help me get there and I'm going to take advantage of it."
"I want you to take advantage of it, but I don't want you to get hurt."
"Look, if we were to share the investments equally, and if they put a hundred million, or two hundred million into businesses in China, and we did too, then if we lost every penny, I wouldn't be hurt. I'm making too much money from other sources. Losses like that wouldn't even be a blip on my computer screen. On top of that, you know with our banks' expertise, we're not going to buy any businesses that we'd lose money in. If we do become partners with Nat and Sabrina, and if we make a lot of money, then our reputation will go far beyond mainland China. We'll soon be in financial markets in Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, London and the other financial capitals. That's very important to me. Up to this point people know I have a lot of money, but outside of the People's Republic, I haven't gained the respect that comes with being successful in business. I want that very much, and you know that as well as I does. We've talked this over many, many times. The Americans are going to be useful and If they can make a lot of money being in business with me, so much the better for both of us."
Q asked, "What about emotionally, then?"
"Well, how are they going to hurt me emotionally?"
"You're already becoming emotionally involved with them and it's going to grow. I'm sure of that. I told you when we started the conversation that this relationship is different. I've never seen you act this way before and I'm concerned about it."
"Are you talking about emotional involvement or physical involvement?"
"You can't separate an emotional involvement from a physical involvement just as you can't separate a physical involvement from an emotional involvement. They're one and the same."
"Oh, come on, now, you know that's not true."
"Oh, come on, Sing, you know that it is true. You and I know that you will go to bed with both of them when the opportunity presents itself. But that's not the point. Whether you go to bed with them or not doesn't separate the emotional from the physical. When you emotionally decide that you're willing to go to bed with them, either singly or together, then the involvement becomes physical even though the act has not been consummated. There's no separation between the emotional and the physical and you know it. So don't play games with me."
"Q, are you telling me that every time a woman looks at a man and is attracted to him, she's really having an emotional orgasm? I think there're a few million women in the world who would challenge that theory. "
"Sing, I believe what I'm talking about has gone beyond a casual glance at an attractive male and an attractive female. You've decided that you want to possess them."
"Yes, possess them. You've reached that point where your money and power allows you to possess anything you want. Now two extremely attractive Americans have come into your life and you want to possess them. The best way you can possess them is to become involved with them financially in a business proposition and make them a part of your entourage."
"Are you saying that I want to entice them into my web and keep them attached to me forever?"
Q rejoined, "The enticing fits, and the web fits, but maybe the forever doesn't. It appears to me that you want them close to you as long as they're useful or until you tire of them."
"You think I choose my friends based on the fact that they're useful and when they're no longer of interest to me, I'll cast them away like a worn garment?"
"You certainly could."
"Do you think that you're my friend simply because you're useful to me and that someday I might tire of you and cast you away?"
"Sing; don't make this so damn personal."
"What do you mean, don't make it so damn personal! You've accused me of virtually everything a woman can accuse another woman of, and then tell me not to make it personal."
"I know it's personal, but I don't mean to be accusatory. I'm not thinking you will cast me away, even though from a very logical, practical, pragmatic, down-to-earth point of view, you very well could. You have the power. I know it, and you know it. So let's not pretend you don't. We both think we've a lifelong relationship, but I've seen other relationships as close as ours where the two friends became competitive and then became bitter enemies. You and I both know that's possible, although not likely. I don't know that you will tire of the Americans and cast them away, but I'm also certain that if this enamored relationship you embarking upon begins to cool, you're capable of doing it. I've watched you do things in a very businesslike fashion, and ending a personal relationship can be done in a very businesslike way just as well as terminating any other kind of relationship."
"We're getting sidetracked now."
"Well, maybe we're getting sidetracked, but I don't think either one of us are very far from being at the heart of the matter. "
"Well, tell me your overriding concern."
"My overriding concern is that your business interest was piqued by these two Americans. These two Americans prance in here on white horses and we're throwing lotus blossoms at their feet. We can only take their word for the fact that they're here to spend fifty or one hundred million on Chinese investments. Neither of us know if that's their real purpose or not."
"You think they have a devious purpose?"
"Well, they very well could."
"You think they would be willing to squander fifty or one hundred million dollars for a devious purpose? If so, they're two swashbuckling gamblers to risk that kind of money. "
"Even fifty or one hundred million dollars is not so great if the rewards come in billions."
"Billions, what are you talking about. How can they extract billions?"
"I don't know that they're here to extract billions but I do know that their ability to get close to you has made me very uneasy."
"How can my bank finding them some reasonable investments make me vulnerable to great financial loss?"
"I don't know. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I can't get rid of that uneasy feeling."
"Go on. I'm sure you're not through. I know you too well for that and you never walk away from a subject just when it starts to get interesting."
"Let me back off. They may be everything they appear to be. They have done nothing up to this point to justify my suspicion. So to be fair I'll reserve judgment until I detect something that I view to be threatening to you, either personally or business wise."
"You've made your point. I'll be on guard and I know you will be too. Your vigilance assures me that I will not be taken advantage of in any way. If anything happens at all that signifies trouble, we'll react swiftly. Are you agreeable?"
"Perfectly agreeable, I'm going to watch out for you whether you like it or not."
"I appreciate your concern. You know that. Now let's talk some banking business and quit talking personal business."
"Fine, You let me have my say."
"We've made great inroads into the international banking community. Our software and monitoring system is so efficient that every major bank will be forced to install it to stay competitive. The voice actuated computer will take over the clerical functions in banks. This alone reduces personnel requirements by eighty to eighty five percent. This is true automation. It now appears banks either buy our software or go out of business. There is no other choice. Eighteen months at the outside and we're the major bank in the world. It's now time to move beyond banks and target brokerage firms in the major financial centers. These firms have accounts like banks. This makes them just as vulnerable. Our software will need only minor alterations to handle brokerage accounts. We can have the codes written by our computers. A day or two at the most and we can be ready to go. Within six months we'll have major market penetration and then the other firms will have to start seeking us out to install our accounting system. After we've the brokerage firms on-line things will really start to pop. We can move money around so fast we'll be doubling our income within a year. The brokerage firms have unusual opportunities for us. Prices are so volatile that most customers never know when a brokerage account is accurate. It's not like a bank statement that people balance every month. We may start taking a little commission off every transaction just like the brokers. It would be close to being undetectable."
"Sing, for the ten thousandth time, why don't we stay legal. We can make billions legitimately and accomplish everything you want to do with no danger of criminal prosecution. The investment income you can generate on five hundred billion dollars, plus the income from your businesses, amount to millions of dollars a day. You also have the potential of taking over the software business. Your computers can generate software and operating systems for any kind of business. Our technological lead is so great that it has become insurmountable. Why do you insist on stealing money when we can become totally legitimate business people. You want to have respect. Hardnosed business gains respect, not stealing money. Stealing is only a way to get power."
"I'm going to let you finish before I really get angry."
"I don't give a damn if you get angry. What you're doing now is stupid as far as I'm concerned. I know it sounds crazy to tell someone with an I.Q. as high as yours that they're stupid. Nevertheless, I think you're stupid if you do stupid things. I think you're doing stupid things and that makes you stupid."
"You're pressing your luck Q. You're pressing me very hard."
"You need it and I'm the only one in the world who can do it. Your computers and your software make you preeminent in this technological business. The world is just now turning to computers en masse and you have voice actuated computers. You have developed the machines that are still just a dream for others. No one else is even close in development. No one else has computers writing software on command. Why do you want to steal?"
"You're calling it stealing. I don't view it the same way you do. We're really starting to dominate financial markets. When we've all financial transaction passing through our computers at Xi’an we'll be doing nothing but brokering accounts and extracting a commission. This is what all financial organizations do to make money and no one wants to call that stealing.
"You have a strange way of looking at things."
"There is another matter that you'll find interesting. I'm going to start making large deposits in major banks. I think it will be twenty billion at a time. The banks will invest the money and these funds will be very profitable for them. Once the banks are dependent on us, I'm going to threaten withdrawal. Of course their till money can't cover a twenty billion dollar withdrawal and they'll plead for relief. I'll tell them that I want fifty one percent of the stock in the bank and I'll pay ten percent over current market. I'll also employ all of the top level employees at a twenty five percent increase in salary. The salary of the president of the bank will be increased by one hundred percent. We'll collapse resistance to take over from the inside. We'll consolidate our gains and move on to another bank. I'm talking big banks."
"What about the Federal Reserve bank? Won't they put a stop to that?"
"They won't even raise their voice. They know that if we have three or four hundred billion dollars spread through the major banks in the United States and we threaten withdrawal with the idea of moving the deposits to other countries, the whole banking system will collapse. The United States can't afford for its largest banks to fail. They'll be happy to cooperate with us on our terms. Laws will be changed if necessary."
"Why do you want to do that?"
"It's my greatest enjoyment -- power. It's better than sex."
"Sing, what am I going to do with you?"
Wednesday, June 28, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
Sabina was ushered into Dr. Pao's office, and as was expected, the office was exquisite in every detail. The office was on the top floor of the Bank of Shanghai building and commanded a panoramic view of the city with the Haung Pu River as a backdrop. The closest thing to a surprise to Sabrina was the fact that the furniture was contemporary, yet definitely Oriental. The walls were lavish with Chinese works of art of all periods, but the single characteristic of the art work was its flair for the light and delicate. Looking around the room made your spirit soar. The design of the furniture obviously had come from one person. Everything matched and fit comfortably in its place. The creator of this office had approached the task in the way one creates a great work of art.
"Sabrina, come in. I'm delighted to see you again."
"Sing, I've been looking forward to spending some time with you. Our conversations on the telephone have made me feel you are warm and friendly. You have a knack of making someone feel as if they've known you for a long time. I hope this means we'll become friends."
"That's my intention, Sabrina. You're such a lovely person and accomplished in so many ways. I would be fortunate to consider you to be my friend."
"Sing, let me be frank with you. I'm quite surprised to have access to you in such a short period of time. I knew you by reputation, and hoped that our business dealings would allow us to become acquainted. On the other hand, I was surprised when within a matter of a few days you're making me feel as if I'm very close to you. Don't you think a person in your position has to be very careful in choosing their friends?"
"That's interesting, Sabrina, because Q, my best friend and closest business associate, has said the very same thing."
"Well, I'm not surprised that she made this observation, and it's one that's well-taken."
"To be honest, I don't have many close friends. I've hundreds of acquaintances, and as you might think, my position brings me into contact with many people in business and government. I'm treated with great deference, but when it comes to close personal friends, they're rather limited. And to be honest with you, I do that on purpose. I'm very selective. I spend much of my time on my business because it takes immense quantities of energy. Everything I do is with fervor."
"How were Nat and I so fortunate to get to know you personally within a few days?"
"Several reasons, you were good customers of my bank. You were interested in buying businesses in the People's Republic, and you had made two deposits of five million dollars. Both were brought to my attention right away. When I found out you had fifty to one hundred million more waiting to be invested, I had a proprietary business interest in you and Nat. I also have to admit that when you were described to me, I couldn't wait to see a woman who was so devastating. And then to have a person coupled with such a handsome man as Nat, the temptation was too great. Dr. Shu and Dr. Ling also gave you very positive reports. My key people are very careful about giving me positive impressions unless they have a genuine reason to recommend someone highly."
"I hope that what we do allows us to live up to the confidence you're placing in us. To be a friend of a person like you in Shanghai is of great benefit to us."
Sing deftly changed the subject. "Sabrina, what is your relationship with Nat?"
Sabrina showed no surprise at the question and answered directly, "We're business partners."
"Are you lovers?"
"Yes, and very good lovers, I might add."
"Where do you live?"
"I live in Aspen, Colorado. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina."
"If you live so far apart, do you visit each other often?"
"I've never been to Chapel Hill, but he's been to Aspen, skiing. However, when he was in Aspen, I didn't know him. We're really very new acquaintances. I've only known Nat for three weeks."
"Three weeks? That's a surprise. You're lovers, but you haven't been in each other's homes?"
"No. We became lovers after we became business partners."
"How did you become business partners?"
"I was sent to recruit Nat."
"Recruit him to do what?"
Sabrina answered, "To be my business partner."
"Are you in some kind of business other than investing?"
"No. Investing is what we do. I know this must sound strange to you. Let me take a few minutes and tell you how this puzzle fits together."
"That would help."
"After graduating from college, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I tried several jobs, but found the one thing I could do best was use my ingenuity. I decided I didn't want to work for anyone else, but I did want to make a large amount of money and live an exciting life. So there I was in my early twenties, looking for a way to spend my life that would allow me all the flexibility I needed. I wrote a letter of discreet inquiry to many of the large corporations in the United States and a number of international corporations. I explained that I was a very accomplished person and wanted to take on difficult assignments that were beyond the capabilities of their employees or persons with whom they typically did business. I told them I worked only on commission basis and would never expect any remuneration unless the results were entirely satisfactory."
Sabrina continued. "Out of four hundred letters, I had two guarded replies wanting to talk with me about special projects. I immediately flew to the offices of both corporations, and they outlined for me the tasks they had at hand. They both had jobs requiring the recovery of large sums of money, twenty-five million on one hand and forty million on the other. Both had similar problems. They needed the money recovered, but there was no legal or legitimate method they could use. When we had our conversations, both were very guarded to protect themselves. I finally said, 'Just tell me what the task is, but tell me no more. I'll use my wits to get the money back, and if you're satisfied with the results, I'll expect a ten percent commission.' Even though these were widely separated companies and neither knew I was working for the other, they both agreed to hire me on such a contingency basis."
Sabrina shifted in her chair and went on. "To be brief, and without bragging too much, I was successful in recovering the twenty-five million for the first company and forty million for the second. Within two months after starting my new career, I'd earned six and a half million. I immediately sat down, and in very descriptive, but discreet language, wrote the four hundred companies I had offered services to earlier. I explained to them the problem that had faced the two companies, without providing names or any identification, and I shared with them my results. These two companies had recovered a combined total of sixty-five million dollars in less than two months, and their total cost was only ten percent. I let these other companies know that if they ever had tasks that needed discreet handling, I was available. I also told them that my minimum fee was five million dollars. Within recent years, I've decided I can earn more by accepting only one assignment a year. Needless to say, the stress is great, so I've put the word out that I'm only available for tasks that pay a minimum of ten million."
"You've obviously been successful in your work."
"I've been very successful. I could have a dozen jobs a year, paying ten million dollars, but the stress is too great. So I'm limiting it to one case for this minimal amount."
"How does Nat figure into that?"
"He really doesn't figure into my earlier life. I now have contacts with virtually all major corporations in the world, and my reputation is well-known. Once these inroads were made, it allowed me to offer other kinds of services. I let my clients know that in my opinion the next great frontier for business was going to be the People's Republic of China. The acquisition of businesses in the People's Republic will make investors an immense sum of money. Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, all of these Pacific Rim countries are among the industrial leaders of the world. There's no question in my mind that the ingredients are in the People's Republic for even a greater economic explosion than those countries have had within the last two decades. I talked with my banker friends, and they formed a syndicate agreeing to back me in looking for investments in mainland China. We have fifty million dollars to start, but I'm absolutely confident that anytime we go back for an additional fifty million, that will be forthcoming too. It's not inconceivable that within a year or so, we'll have $500 million invested on the mainland if you're willing to help us with this little task."
"That's what I'm in business for. But you still haven't explained Nat."
"I decided that I didn't want to be in business totally by myself. If I was going to be in the world of investments, I wanted someone who was exceptionally proficient with computers. I wanted a man. I thought that having someone of a different sex would give me the balance I might need. I wanted someone who was highly intelligent. I needed the brightest mind I could possibly find, and, if you'll allow me to be frank, I wanted the best looking man who could meet the qualifications. I was interested in someone with whom I could work, live, trust, and generally have one hell of a good time. I was confident that when I found such a person there was a likelihood that we might fall in love, or at least have the kind of relationship that would make life a lot of fun."
"Was he hard to find?"
"It took me about two months, but I was very particular as to the person I wanted. It occurred to me that the academic world was the most likely place I would find someone who was as intelligent and educated as I needed. Most outstanding academics are able to secure government grants. So, I put the word out to my connections in Washington, describing the type of person I was seeking. It wasn't long before names were flowing back to me. Nat was within the first two dozen recommended to me. He has quite a good reputation in Washington in working with computers and with the government. He has become independently wealthy himself, and continues to teach at the University of North Carolina simply because he loves it. The main reason it took two months to find Nat was that I did not have full time to spend on the search. Nevertheless, by the time I'd investigated and checked out all I needed to know, roughly two months had passed. I then set out to find out something of his personal habits. As luck would have it, he was spending some vacation time at his favorite recreational spot on the eastern coast of the United States, Dafuskie Island. This island is just south of Hilton Head, South Carolina. I told my employers I'd found the person who I needed for our new business enterprise, and it was necessary for them to provide the expense money to recruit him. They agreed and asked how much I needed. I told them to rent the nicest house on Dafuskie Island. That would be all I needed to recruit Nat."
"Tell me more. I'm fascinated."
"Well, Dafuskie is a very small island, and there're not a lot of people there. I observed Nat very carefully, and found that he had a routine. There were not many evenings that he didn't take a long walk, along the beach. My house was almost three miles from his cottage, but as luck would have it, he would pass the house where I was staying every day. I thought, knowing his schedule, I would make sure that I was on the beach, properly attired in a swimsuit that was skimpy enough to get his attention."
"Sabrina, you did not need a skimpy swimsuit. You could gain any man's attention in a Mu-Mu. All you'd have to do is show up with that beautiful face of yours. But go on. I'm fascinated."
"I went out at witching hour and set up my sunbathing equipment, even though his walks took place late in the afternoon, and there was very little sun left. I wasn't going to let that small factor affect the little lure I was setting. Then I saw him coming down the beach. He must have been at least three-quarters of a mile away. I really couldn't make sure it was Nat, but it was the appointed time. I took a chance this was the man I was after. To add a little intrigue to the situation, I thought I would go into the water and wet my bathing suit making it more revealing to capture his attention. As he was approaching and as I went into the water, the damnedest storm you have ever seen in your life came up. I mean lightning was flashing, and thunder was rolling. It was really frightening. I said 'To hell with this. I can meet Nat Turner another day. I've got to get out of here before I get killed.' I came flying out of the water, heading for my towels and other beach paraphernalia. With the wind blowing and the rain coming in torrents, it was blinding. I couldn't see ten feet ahead of me. I decided to leave everything on the beach and just head on into the cabana, but as fate, luck, kismet, whatever you might call it, would happen, he arrived at the same time I did. To be honest, I didn't even see him. I heard him shout to me. He said, 'Help! Help! SOS!' I looked up, and there was the man I was after asking if he could find some shelter somewhere. Things couldn't have worked out better. It seemed totally accidental. I told him to follow me, and we went on into the cabana, which I might add would put most houses to shame."
"That's the way you met?"
"That's the way we met. I brought him in; fixed him a drink, fed him, made love to him, and guess what?"
"You hired him."
"I hired him. But it was more than just hiring him. We're full partners."
"Do you love him?"
"I certainly do. I didn't love him when we first made love. That was business. But I certainly loved him after we made love, and our personalities really do fit. We get along so well together. We think alike. We work well together. He has strengths. I have strengths. He has weaknesses. I have weaknesses, but we don't have the same strengths, and we don't have the same weaknesses. We're very compatible."
"Sabrina, there's no wonder I like you. You're so candid and so charming, as well as being so incredibly beautiful."
"Listen, Sing. When you start talking about beautiful women, you don't have to talk about me. I've never seen such a stunning woman as you in my life. We're different. That's all."
"So Nat and you are in business together?"
"Yes. We've been together for three weeks, and it appears that everything is working out wonderfully well."
"You're not married then?"
"No. We're not married."
"Do you think you'll ever get married?"
"I don't know the answer to that yet. But I do know that our relationship doesn't necessarily depend upon marriage. I'm certain we both want to maintain our highly independent personalities, but so far that hasn't created any great conflict. At least, up to this point it hasn't."
Sing asked, "Are you monogamous?"
Sabrina answered, "I have been for three weeks."
"Do you expect him to be monogamous?"
"That wasn't a requirement in our relationship."
"Have you even discussed it?"
Sabrina answered, "Not at all."
"Are you likely to discuss it?"
"I doubt I'll bring it up. If the matter needs settling, then he's going to have to broach the topic, not me. I'm very comfortable with life the way it is."
"Sabrina, you know you're as attractive to women as you are to men?"
"Yes. I've known that for a long time."
"Have you had sexual experiences with women?"
"There aren't many experiences I haven't had, either sexual or otherwise."
"Do you think this bothers Nat?"
"No. I really don't think so. I think he accepts me on the terms under which we first met. He knew I wasn't an ordinary person and that I've been in every kind of setting in the world. If I'm reading Nat correctly, we love each other very much. We're not highly possessive, and would understand each other's behavior. I'm going to expect from Nat the same as I'm willing to give him. I expect him to love me, support me, work with me, and be a person I can entirely depend upon in time of emergency or stress. I'm quite willing to give Nat all of these, and I'm sure he'll return the confidence. We're not teenagers. We're not children. We've both been around, and we both know it. That's the way it is, and that's the way it's going to continue. I think that makes for a secure relationship, don't you?"
"Absolutely, I can't imagine a better relationship."
It was obvious these two women had enjoyed their conversation on a level not usually available to women of their accomplishment.
"I've told you a lot in a few minutes," Sabrina confessed.
"I enjoy your candor and your honesty. I don't believe you could be any other way. I'm very much like you. I like to be candid and honest. I like to ask direct questions and get honest answers. What more could one want from a fellow human being?"
"I don't think you'd want anything else from a fellow human being."
"Would you feel comfortable in spending the night away from Nat?"
Sabrina answered, "When?"
Sing answered, "Tonight."
"That shouldn't be any problem. What's going on tonight?"
"I want to have a party in your honor."
Sabrina asked, "A party? Wouldn't Nat be invited to a party?"
"No. If at all possible, I would like to have a party tomorrow night in his honor. I don't want to combine the parties. So tonight I want you to come to my palace, and I'll have entertainment and friends there, and you'll get to know them. I'll be honoring you in a very grand style. But it's important that you be alone. Tomorrow night I'd like to have another party and invite Nat. Both of you would be introduced to our culture in a new way. But to have you both together would be depreciating to the events. There can only be one focus to any lens. It just doesn't work for two."
"It's short notice but I wouldn't miss it for anything."
"Then could you call Nat, and tell him you'll be coming to a party at my house tonight, and you'll be spending the night. Ask him will he do me the great honor of coming to my house for a party tomorrow night, and also spend the night. I promise you both it will be the most memorable night of your lives. You will enjoy it very much."
"Sing, I don't see how we can turn down such a gracious invitation. I'll go back to the office and tell Nat what I'm going to do and that you'll be expecting him tomorrow. I'm sure he'll be flattered, and will be delighted to come."
"That will be splendid."
"Give me some idea of what I should wear. Is this a formal party?"
"Yes. It's a formal party, but I'll provide the clothes. Come in anything you think will be comfortable, and I'll have my servants see that you're properly prepared."
"It sounds very exciting."
"It is exciting. I'm probably more excited than you are. I'm glad you can come."
"Will you give me your address?
"No. I'll send my car to your hotel. My driver will pick you up at 7:00."
"Sing, this is wonderful. I've never had the opportunity to participate in a formal Chinese party at someone's palace."
"The palace is very nice and has been constructed to supply every comfort. I'm sure you'll like it."
"I'll run now. See you tonight around 7:30."
"Yes. It will take about thirty minutes to get from your hotel to my house. Tonight will be a lot of fun. I will see you tonight."
Wednesday, June 28, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
"Nat, please come in and sit down."
"Thank you, Queeling. Your office suite is beautiful."
"Please call me Q. Everyone else does. Yes the office is beautiful. It's Sing's philosophy to make our work environment as comfortable as our homes. She thinks this increases our creativity."
"It was nice of you to invite me to visit this morning. Is this occasion social or business?"
"I don't compartmentalize my life. That way I don't have to make such distinctions."
"Tell me something of your duties. You are obviously Sing's alter ego. She said as much when we met at the Gong DE Ling our first night here."
"That's a good way to phrase it. I am Sing's alter ego. It's my duty to see that she is taken care of in every way. I take care of her emotional and physical needs. But she also consults me when serious decisions are to be made. It's nice for someone to know that there's a person close by that's completely loyal to them above all else. Sing knows that my comments and observations are not self serving."
"Q, I am delighted to get to know someone with such a strong character trait of loyalty. You are very rare. You have loyalty and beauty in one package. Sing is lucky. But I am too. If I can count you as a friend I am now surrounded by three of the most desirable women I have ever laid eyes on. You, Sing and Sabrina in one room is almost more than a man can stand."
"That's quite a compliment to place me in the same category with Sing and Sabrina. I know when I look in the mirror that I have certain physical attractions but no one that I know could compete successfully with those two. If you want to consider me the third most beautiful woman I can accept that with a certain level of pride because I know just how lovely the other two are."
"Consider yourself third if you like but it is a close third. There's something else I like about you. You're not only beautiful but you have a candor about you that's very appealing. I love honesty and directness above all else."
"Are you sure you like honesty and directness, or are you using your considerable charm to flatter me."
"Q, I'm serious. Sabrina possesses these characteristics. You can always count on what she says as being her honest opinion and the truth. This is the basis of a wonderful relationship. She is without guile as far as our personal relationship is concerned. Unless I miss my guess, you're like that too."
"Then you really want me to be direct."
"Absolutely, there is something of a turn on when a woman looks you in the eye and tells you what she believes. It's an element of charm that many women never learn to use properly."
"Let me be direct then. I want to make love with you."
"You are direct, aren't you", Nat said with a chuckle.
Q responded with a dazzling smile.
"Admittedly you took me somewhat off guard, but I asked for it, and I must admit that you're one helluva temptation. When is this liaison to take place?"
"This liaison is taking place now."
"Here in your office?"
Nat asked, "In the middle of the afternoon?"
Q answered, "In the middle of the afternoon."
"The doors are not even locked."
"I'm not going to lock the doors."
"You're serious aren't you?"
Q answered, "Very serious."
"You're going to lock the doors?"
"I'm not going to lock the doors."
Q continued, "No one will come into my office unless they're invited. This is my space and no one will invade it without my permission."
"Aren't you Sing's girl friend?"
"Yes, I'm her girl friend and her trusted business advisor. What does that have to do with you and me?"
"What if she found out that we had a physical encounter?"
"My physical needs are of no concern to Sing. My and your relationship will have no effect on my relationship with her. Nothing will change."
"Don't you think our relationship will be a problem for her?"
"Not in the least. I'll tell her."
"Why did you choose me?'
"You're handsome and virile. Any woman would desire to have a physical relationship with you."
"I'm still concerned about Sing."
"Don't be concerned. I enjoy my physical relationship with Sing. However, I have other needs. A physical relationship with a man periodically is very important. It keeps me normal and Sing knows it. Otherwise I would focus on her and become possessive. Neither of us wants that."
"So I am the anointed?"
"You are the anointed."
Sing rose from her chair behind her desk and moved around and stood beside Nat standing within arm’s reach. She placed her hand on the overlap portion of her dress between her breasts and pulled it away from her. The oriental garment fell open. At the same moment Q wiggled her shoulders slightly in a coordinated manner and the garment fell around her feet. There were no undergarments. None were required. Q was now completely in the nude and exhibiting a perfect female form for Nat's inspection. Nat immediately felt the adrenaline rush move through his body and end its voyage in his groin. Nat could feel his pants tighten as he looked at the beautiful Chinese woman standing beside him. She offered her hand and pulled him to his feet. She turned his shoulders until they were facing each other and proceeded to undress him deftly and quickly. Nat could offer no resistance.
Within moments he was completely disrobed with the exception of his socks. She took both of her hands and sat him down on the front of her desk. She raised each leg and removed his socks, throwing each over her shoulder in a flamboyant carefree manner. They landed near his crumpled garments beside the chair where he had been seated. She took his hand and led him toward a couch located on an inner wall. She dropped his hand and removed the three back cushions and dropped them into the crevice between the couch and the wall. She then took the two bolster pillows and placed them inside the right arm of the couch preparing a place of comfort for Nat's head. She instructed him to lie down on the couch. Nat complied, placing his head on the bolster pillows.
She then straddled him, and began the customary reciprocating motion until she reached her peak of pleasure and indicated so by a small shriek of joy. They both slumped into momentary exhaustion and neither moved for ten minutes.
Without a word they disentangled and adjourned to the bathroom adjoining Q's office.
Q turned to Nat while still in the bathroom and said, "I needed that."
Nat asked, "Q, if most of your sexual activities are with Sing or other women, how often is it that you are able to enjoy a man?"
"Not often enough. It's really more a shortage of time. Sing certainly doesn't care. She likes men as much as I do and understands fully that this desire needs to be satisfied periodically."
Nat and Q returned to her office and dressed. They both continued their conversation in a friendly but business-like manner. There was no emotion or sexual overtones in this subsequent conversation. Nat and Q parted as if they had just completed a business deal related to the bank. This was business as usual to Q.
Wednesday, June 28, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
At ten minutes to seven the phone rang in Sabrina's and Nat's hotel room. The doorman was calling to let Sabrina know the driver of Dr. Pao's limousine was waiting downstairs. Sabrina touched up her makeup for the last time and bade Nat good bye. She said she would see him sometime on the following morning. Nat told her to enjoy herself and he would most likely see her at the office.
As Dr. Pao had estimated, it was near 7:30 when limousine arrived at her palace. Sabrina was ushered in by a young girl not more than eighteen years old and was taken directly to Dr. Pao's dressing area. Sabrina and Sing embraced and gave each other a friendly kiss.
"Sabrina, I've really been looking forward to this evening. I think you're going to have a wonderful time tonight. I've planned some new experiences for you. I want you to experience as much of China as you can while you're here."
"So do I, Sing. I've been looking forward to the evening with more than ordinary interest. I'm in a completely different culture and anticipate doing things the Chinese way."
"You will gain some insights into our oriental ways. Tonight will be a very exotic evening."
"You told me you'd provide my clothes, and I took you at your word."
"Yes. In the People’s Republic the preparation for the party is as important as the party itself. We enjoy ourselves in a slow and leisurely manner. It enhances the enjoyment. I do want to warn you ahead of time. To have the maximum enjoyment this evening you'll be required to make some substantial mental and emotional adjustments. Are you capable of looking beyond your usual western values and accepting our ways, at least for one evening?"
"That's exactly what I plan to do. I'll do the best I can."
"I'm very serious. It's most important that you relax and think of yourself as the Empress of China. Tonight you're my honored guest and everyone in attendance is there to honor you. You're the reason we're having this party and our goal is to make this the most memorable evening of your life. Usual proprieties don't apply, and no one will hold you accountable for anything. This evening is yours. You're Dr. Sing Pao's honored guest."
"You make it sound exciting. Can you give me any idea of what to expect?"
"I think it'd better for you to accept whatever happens. Just let the evening unfold. I'll tell you this much, however, when we honor a woman she generally has two attendants, one male and one female. When we honor a man he has two attendants but they're both female. It's the attendant’s responsibility to cater to your every wish and every need. We expect them to anticipate your wishes without your having to express them."
"I hope you don't spoil me."
Sing smiled and responded, "One tradition we follow is not to consume alcoholic beverages. We drink only a special Chinese green tea. No wine or liquor, only tea. We've found this enhances the enjoyment of the evening. I hope that doesn't disappoint you."
"No, that doesn't disappoint me at all. I enjoy a cocktail or a glass of good wine, but I'm not dependent upon alcohol to have a good time."
"Great! It's time for us to begin our celebration. We'll start by saluting each other with our first cup of tea."
Sing turned to an exquisite tea set and poured two cups of tea into beautiful delicate hand painted tea cups. The tea was almost clear but it did exhibit a faint green tint. The liquid was hot and wisps of steam curled upward.
"Sabrina, let me propose a toast to my new and wonderful friend. May this be the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship? May we look back on tonight as the occasion that sealed our friendship forever."
Sabrina responded with a toast of her own, "To Sing, my wonderful hostess. I offer a toast to her gracious hospitality for entertaining me in such a lavish way. "
Sing reached to her right and pulled on a sash. This movement was obviously to gain attention from someone in another room but there was no detectable sound to Sabrina's ear. Within moments two young Chinese slipped through a draped entry way. One was male and the other female. Sabrina viewed each of them slowly and deliberately. She was already slipping into the mode of being in charge that Sing had implored. The tea was having an interesting affect. She could detect her attitudes change. She felt powerful and confident. No fear or trepidation could force their way into Sabrina's psyche. She was now able to view herself as being in a position of power with servants to attend to her every wish and command.
Sing said, "Sabrina, I'd like you to meet Petal and Stem. They'll be your host and hostess tonight."
Sabrina didn't reply. She analyzed her servants carefully. They were both strikingly good looking. Stem was strong, intelligent looking and moved with the ease of a big, well groomed cat. Petal was smaller and very beautiful. Her face was well formed and heart shaped. Her complexion looked like porcelain. She was refined and she moved her eyes in a deferential way. Stem was about twenty and Petal was eighteen or nineteen at the most. Both were clad in beautifully hand stitched oriental robes. Sing stood between Stem and Petal. She took each of their inside hands and extended them toward Sabrina. When Sabrina responded in a like manner the four of them stood with hands clasped. Sing then silently slipped the bonds of the grip leaving the three joined together.
Sing said, "In the People’s Republic the preparation for an important occasion is as important as the occasion itself. I want Stem and Petal to see that you're properly prepared for our party. Please put yourself in their hands and they'll serve you well."
Without releasing their grip, they bade Sing good bye and the three moved through the drapery covered door and down a dimly lit hall to a room nearby. They invited Sabrina into a well appointed dressing room. On the far wall was the most elegant oriental robe Sabrina had ever seen. The garment obviously had been designed for this one special occasion.
Petal spoke first. "Madam, it's traditional that we enjoy a cup of tea together as our first act of friendship. It's a symbol of warmth and happiness."
"I would enjoy the tea, Petal. The cup with Dr. Pao was delicious. I've never tasted anything just like it."
Petal poured three cups and each delicately tasted the steaming liquid. It was mild but filled with flavor. It had an instantaneous affect on Sabrina's mood. She was exhilarated but in a very controlled way. She had never experienced a moment like this. She was feeling powerful but detached. She had a heightened sense of awareness and truly had the feeling of royalty. Psychologically she felt no restraints. This was a perfect moment.
After consuming the tea, Stem and Petal removed their robes. Stem was left with nothing on but a garment made of silk that looked like an athletic supporter. The garment was nothing but a soft cup and a strap around the waist. Stem’s buttocks were left bare. His garment hid very little from view. Petal was bare breasted and her only clothing was a very small triangle of silk covering her pubic area. The two young Chinese were perfect physical specimens. They both stepped to Sabrina and disrobed her completely without her having to offer assistance in any way. The disrobing was a practiced work of art. The three stood for a few moments admiring the others bodies in a very open and approving way.
Petal said, "It's time for your bath."
They went to the adjoining room and moved toward a very large sunken tub constructed of hand painted tiles. Petal removed her small covering leaving her totally nude like Sabrina. Petal then took her hand and led her down three steps into the tub that was filled near to the brim with pleasantly hot water. There was a distinct smell of flowers and oil. Descending into the tub was a sensuous experience. Sabrina turned and sat down leaning against the curved back of the tiled tub. Petal positioned herself between Sabrina's legs on her knees facing Sabrina. The water was high and buoyant enough to support Sabrina's breasts, and they floated pleasingly away from her body.
Petal took a bar of French milled soap and washed around Sabrina's face and neck. She then rinsed this area thoroughly. Her next movement was to cup Sabrina's floating left breast and wash it gently but with enough pressure to make Sabrina's nipple harden. When she finished the left breast she bent over and took the nipple in her mouth and moved her tongue in clockwise circles until the nipple was as hard as Sabrina had ever experienced it. Petal then moved to the right breast and followed the same procedure. She straightened up and smiled, taking pride in the work she had just done.
Next she took her hand and descended it into the water clutching the bar of soap. She thoroughly scrubbed Sabrina's pubic area sending delightful tingles through her body. She rinsed the area thoroughly, and finding Sabrina's small organ, massaged it delicately with her fingers.
Sabrina closed her eyes and leaned back resting her head on the top of the tub and arched her back. She lay there enjoying the fondling by Petal until she could feel the involuntary constricting of her body as orgasm neared. Sabrina held on trying to make these final moments last as long as possible. Then suddenly her resolve melted and an orgasm exploded through her body. Sabrina's head and body slumped. Petal and Stem laughed delightedly. Their guest was already enjoying herself. Petal then completed bathing Sabrina scrubbing both back and front in a gentle way.
They both helped Sabrina from the tub and took her to a massage table where they lay her face down with her head resting on her arms. Stem removed his remaining bit of clothing and climbed nude on to the table astride Sabrina's back. He positioned himself above Sabrina's buttocks with his weight mostly on his knees which were resting on the massage table. Sabrina could feel his maleness tickling her hips.
Petal handed Stem a series of lights aromatic oils which he applied to her entire body. He turned her over on two occasions rubbing the oils well into her skin. She was now glistening and smelling like lightly scented flower petals. After he descended for the last time he turned Sabrina on her back and kissed her nipples until they were hard.
Sabrina was highly aroused and Stem nodded his head toward Petal. She brought him a small round tin filled with white powder. He touched his finger to the white powder, well coating the wet surface, and returned his hand to Sabrina and touched her in her most sensitive area.. At the moment of contact with the white powder, Sabrina exploded with the most powerful orgasm of her life. Her body went totally limp after the involuntary muscle spasms subsided. She was satiated with pleasure. Her body could not stop quivering and within thirty seconds she had three more orgasms like the aftershocks of a violent earthquake. She then calmed down and felt waves of warmth and satisfaction bathe her body as she drifted off to sleep.
In fifteen minutes Sabrina awoke and stirred back to life. Petal immediately handed her a cup of the delicious hot green tea which Sabrina gratefully consumed. After Sabrina enjoyed the tea she felt a sense of well being immediately. Petal and Stem helped her from the table and dressed her. They applied powder, blush, and lipstick to her face, and brushed her stylishly cut hair into place. They placed a minuscule silk halter around Sabrina's ample breasts and tied it in a knot in the back. Little of Sabrina was covered other than the nipples. Her lower garment consisted of a small silk triangle over the pubic area with a small cord down the cleavage in her buttocks. The cord was totally invisible. The silk triangle was held in place on her hips by two gold rings, one inch in diameter, with a catch like a key ring holding the garment to her body. After the brief clothing was attached she was then covered with the elegant oriental robe she had seen as she entered the room.
Sabrina looked in the mirror. She was radiant. She had never looked better in her life. With this final view indelibly etched on Sabrina's brain, Petal and Stem escorted her to a small ballroom. Beautiful music was playing as they entered. There were twenty-four other guests in attendance. Twelve of the guests were men and twelve were women. All were discretely separated in a large circle that encompassed the ball room. Each of the twelve men was being attended by two beautiful young Chinese women about the age of Petal. Each of the women were being attended by a handsome young Chinese man and a young Chinese woman. All were excitedly talking and consuming oriental delicacies being served by young Chinese.
Sabrina estimated there were eighty people seated in the room. She could only roughly guess the number of servants who were moving around the room waiting on the guests. It was a much larger party than she had anticipated. There were no tables or chairs, only large cushions, but there were enough to form any kind of configuration that could make the body comfortable while reclining on the floor.
When Sabrina arrived in the room the music changed and served to announce to all the guests that the guest of honor had arrived. Applause broke out spontaneously and a warm glow descended over Sabrina. As Petal and Stem escorted her to the place of honor next to Dr. Pao, there was a nodding of heads indicating greetings. The assigned positions of pillows did not allow for conversation between the guests. Immediately upon being seated Sabrina was brought another cup of the steaming tea. Each succeeding cup she was served was as delightful as the first and the impact on her mood was startling.
The meal lasted for more than an hour and a half. Sabrina had found Petal and Stem to be delightful dinner companions and both were clever conversationalists. After the food was removed, more tea was poured.
Then the entertainment began. Beautiful Chinese dancers flooded the floor. They were clothed in brilliantly colored costumes. The grace and ability of the entertainers was very professional. The dance movements were swift and precise. The musical accompaniment was a small lively symphony orchestra. The audience was completely engrossed in the dances and appreciative of the dancers' skill. With each subsequent number the dancers would return with less clothing covering their bodies. This titillated the audience and they were becoming more and more aroused by the slow strip tease that was taking place before their eyes. The dances continued for more than two hours even though the guests would have sworn that no more than thirty minutes had passed. The titillation of the dancers was being amply supported by the host and hostess discretely touching and fondling their guests.
The last dance by the troupe was performed completely in the nude and was explicitly sexual even though the dancers carefully refrained from performing the actual sex act by the narrowest of margins. Sabrina was as aroused as the other guests were. It was a highly charged sexual atmosphere.
The dancers completed the show and took their bows. After they left the floor there was a long drum roll calling attention to an important announcement about to be made. However no master of ceremonies appeared. The orchestra then started a low carefully composed piece that was very sexual and sensual. It was apparent that the star of the show was ready to perform and the timbre of the music indicated this act was going to exceed the performance of the troupe in its sexual intensity. The audience became quiet. Their nerve endings were tingling with anticipation. The evening was moving to its climax and the audience was becoming short of breath.
The lighting in the room changed. A piece of equipment was brought to the center of the dance floor. Sabrina had never seen anything like it. It was constructed of leather and stainless steel. From the side it looked like a box covered with fine grain leather. It had what appeared to be a head rest at one end that was a padded leather cushion firmly attached to the box. The length of the box was quite short. No more than three feet. On the opposite end of the box from the head rest was a curved half moon indentation in the box of about ten inches. Flanking the indentation within two inches of the end was two stainless steel rods extending vertically that were about fifteen inches in height. Each was topped with a bar that was leather covered and padded and formed into the shape of a half moon.
The house lights darkened and a spotlight was focused on the device. There was a feeling of electricity in the room that fairly crackled. A murmur of excitement swept around the room. Sabrina like the rest of the guests could hardly wait to see the grand finale of the evening.
The spotlight in the darkened room changed to lime in color and started making long, lazy circles around the room bathing all of the guests and their host and hostesses in its glow momentarily. After eight or nine such circuits the circle of light on the floor slowed to an agonizing crawl and moved inexorably toward Sabrina.
To her shock and surprise the light made its last stop directly on her party of three. Then the circle of the light narrowed illuminating only Sabrina. There was complete silence. Hardly a breath was taken. Petal and Stem arose from their cushions and stood at Sabrina's side. The spotlight widened to include all three of them. The music began a slow build up featuring a long drum roll that was increasing in intensity. A full minute passed with everyone in the room motionless and the music increasing in intensity. Stem and Petal stooped slightly and motioned for Sabrina's hands. She looked puzzled but gave in to the coaxing and extended her hands toward them. They gracefully pulled her into an upright position from her bed among the cushions.
All eighty in attendance burst into an excited spontaneous applause. The servants who had been waiting on those seated among the cushions gathered in a circle around the back wall. The room was filled with anticipation. The music subsided and the drum moved to a much slower but driving beat. Sabrina could feel the blood coursing through her veins. Stem and Petal guided her to the center of the floor and shed their robes. Sabrina was left fully covered in her exquisite hand sewn robe. Petal was now clad only in her small silk triangle. Her beautiful breasts were uncovered and bare for the audience to enjoy. Stem was clad in his silk garment that was constructed along the lines of an athletic supporter. The buttocks of both were uncovered and showed the firm and muscular lines of an athlete.
After a mock bow Petal and Stem started to dance around Sabrina in a sensuous fashion. Their arms would extend and retract as they would move toward Sabrina, bow and then retreat a few paces away. The dance moved to a new phase when they started to include Sabrina into their choreographed steps. They did a few steps and passes holding Sabrina's hand. She responded delightedly. As the dance became more intense Sabrina started to become at one with the music. She loved music and the beat began to drive her into delightfully intricate improvisational movements. Petal and Stem responded in the manner of great professional dancers. Each of their moves was improvised but supported Sabrina in a way that made the now spectacular dance look as if it had been rehearsed for weeks. Sabrina would make sweeping runs toward the audience with hands and arms flowing like limbs of a tree in a gentle wind. Petal and Stem were undulating at her side. Her natural gestures were perfect for the increasing tempo of the music. The audience was electrified.
As Petal and Stem closed in on her in a triple exchange of close action steps Stem removed Sabrina's robe in one deft movement. Sabrina was now clad in only the briefest of halters and a small triangle of silk invigorated Sabrina's dance from smooth fluid movements to more pronounced steps emphasizing her breasts and her hips. She instinctively added a little seductive wiggle at appropriate places in the music and the audience responded with wild applause and even some shouts. Those watching the dance were feeling as involved as the participants.
The dance began to be punctuated with much more physical contact between Sabrina and her two dance partners. Petal would move around Sabrina and brush her uncovered breasts against her in a wild seductive manner, while Stem would press his groin against Sabrina in a very suggestive way. Petal would find herself on the opposite side of Sabrina pressing her groin against her in an orgasmic frenzy. Sabrina frequently became caught in a vise of undulating sex. She always responded appropriately, indicating mock orgasm from time to time to the delight of the audience. The dancers were wild but fluid and emotional. It was an incredible sight. The audience was in frenzy.
Petal slyly retreated to the rear of Sabrina and in one motion untied the knot holding Sabrina's halter in place. As the garment fell away Petal flung it to an appreciative guest sitting on his cushions on the side of the dance floor. The audience responded to this new sight with a wild exultation. Sabrina, now bare breasted, responded with an even higher level of intensity and sexuality. She threw her arms apart and held her hands up making her breasts protrude to the fullest for the audience to enjoy. Her movements took her in a giant circle near the audience to give them all a close up view of her body. She would time her steps so a break in her motion would leave her directly in front of a guest. She would capture eye contact and press herself forward indicating the availability of these two giant orbs should the guests show any interest. The men and the women all responded enthusiastically. She then danced her way back to the center of the floor and began to rub her breasts on Petal and Stem in large lazy circles.
In response to this new movement by Sabrina, her two partners removed the last of their clothing and tossed them to an appreciative guest of each sex who could appreciate this new possession. They immediately returned to Sabrina to continue to enjoy the new gifts that the guest of honor was bestowing upon them.
The viewers were enjoying the encounters on the floor as much as the participants. The dance continued at this frenetic pace until Petal and Stem flanked Sabrina and each released the catch on the rings holding Sabrina's small triangle protecting her pubic area. Now all three were nude, and even though there was very little additional portion of Sabrina's body for the audience to discover, they responded to this new revelation as if it were a delicacy not earlier available for observation.
This last act turned Sabrina's body into a succession of jerks and flinging movements as if she were caught in involuntary muscle spasms caused by a series of gigantic orgasms. She feigned that her body was out of control and was only responding to the driving beat of the music. It was as if she had been captured by the rhythm. No one had ever seen a dance such as this and the audience was responding with applause and encouragement. Sabrina had seduced the audience into losing control and their actions had become involuntary. The music was now driving the whole room. The dance progressed and Sabrina feigned gaining control of her emotions. She became very deliberate in her movements and confronted Petal and Stem. She thrust her breasts forward for her two partners to take the protruding nipples in their mouth. They responded as directed and Sabrina could feel her nipples harden. She was now indicating in her dance that she was sexually in control of her partners. She did a half turn removing the hard protrusions from their mouth and spread her legs. Petal slipped around Sabrina's back and moved close to her body where the maximum amount of skin was in contact, groin against buttocks. She then reached around Sabrina and took one breast in either hand and begin to massage them lovingly. The expression on Sabrina’s face was one of ecstasy. She feigned orgasm to the delight of her audience. Had they known, this last movement had, in fact, brought her to a reasonable climax.
The dance continued in this sexually explicit fashion for several minutes. The music now indicated to the audience and Sabrina that the dance was about to end, and a final devastating move was needed. Sabrina looked for her two partners to complete the dance with a bold move, but only Petal was in sight. Stem was nowhere to be found. She and Petal embraced with a flourish that could only be accomplished by two beautiful women in a state of sexual excitement.
As the music concluded its last few notes in an incredibly orchestrated ending, Stem reappeared and joined them. Unnoticed by Sabrina, Stem had returned with his middle finger coated in a white powder. As the last notes of the finale were being played Stem reached down and touched Sabrina with the white powder.
Sabrina exploded into a heightened orgasm she thought would have been impossible for a woman to have. Her back arched, her body shuddered, her eyes closed and a series of shudders went through her body. She sank to the floor in emotional exhaustion as the last note was played. The audience was stunned into silence. No musical presentation had ever ended with such a startling flourish.
However, before the audience could respond in appreciation, the music started again. The performance was not over. The strains were entirely different but just as sexually potent. Petal and Stem picked up Sabrina's limp and totally relaxed body and carried it to the apparatus that was still in the center of the dance floor. They placed Sabrina on the short box with the padded pillow under her neck. Her head was pulled down by gravity as it had no support. Her arms were wide apart exposing her delicious breast. Petal and Stem then spread her legs and placed them in the stirrups supporting her legs under her knees. This left Sabrina wide open and accepting.
Stem moved into the indentation at the end of the box between Sabrina's legs and inserted his enormous erection into her in one swift stroke. One insertion was all that was needed. He hesitated pushing himself into Sabrina as far as he could. His orgasm came as tidal wave. He arched his back and collapsed to the floor totally spent in a way he had never experienced before. Sabrina even in her ethereal state responded with a simultaneous orgasm. Only a faint moan and a shudder of response indicated that Sabrina was even remotely connected with the real world.
Sabrina was lifted from the apparatus by two strong Chinese servants and taken to Dr. Pao's bedroom. They placed her in the middle of Sing's freshly prepared bed. In about ten minutes Sabrina started to revive and showed some signs of life. In the meantime Petal had prepared a bath in Sing's sunken tub. As earlier in the evening, Sabrina was given more tea to drink and then Petal bathed her lovingly and completely. Every part of her body was cared for and a sweet smelling douche was administered. Sabrina was brought back to Sing's bed. She was still completely in the nude but felt very comfortable around the servants who were vying for ways to serve and please her. The sense of power she continued to possess allowed no room for embarrassment. A tray was placed in front of her filled with the most delicious canapés. Sabrina sampled these traditional Chinese delights with a childish glee. She was puzzled by her feelings. She still possessed a strong desire for sex. These internal feelings made no sense to her after the experiences she had been through during the evening.
Sing entered the room and sat down by Sabrina on the bed.
"Sabrina, you were wonderful."
"I feel honored you'd provide me such an extraordinary evening."
Sing poured Sabrina more tea. She dismissed the servants and pulled on the Sash hanging near the bed. Within two minutes there was a knock on the bedroom door.
"Come in, Q", Sing called toward the door.
The door opened and in walked Q.
"Q, wasn't Sabrina magnificent tonight?"
"The best we've ever had. It was a performance without equal."
Sing turned to a console built into the bedside table and adjusted three controls. The lights dimmed and music began to play. Outdoor scenes were being projected on the ceiling by a rear screen projection system. Lying on the bed looking up gave one the feeling of being in a hot air balloon drifting across the lake district of western China. The movie gave a 360 degree panoramic view of the scene. Sabrina had never experienced anything like it. Sing and Q both refreshed their tea. Sabrina was still drinking the cup Sing had poured a few minutes earlier. The balloon trip across China slowly evaporated from the ceiling.
Thursday, June 29, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
"Sing, what did you think of the party last night?"
"What did you think of it?"
"Sabrina is an incredible woman."
Q smiled and went on, "Can you believe I was in bed with the two most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life? I'm going to write about it in my diary."
"Q, you don't have a diary. Besides that, you don't have to take a back seat to anybody when it comes to looks."
"Sing, that's a nice compliment, but no one, can compete with you and Sabrina."
Q went on. "She's a wonderful dancer. It's hard to believe she danced so professionally with two people she'd never even seen before."
"You're right. She's great dancer, very interpretive. She took the music and got all there was to get out of it. Petal and Stem were incredible too."
"How do you think Sabrina will feel when she remembers what she did last night?"
"I don't anticipate any problems. I think she took to our lifestyle like a duck takes to water. We've made a convert. If I wanted her to leave Nat and come live with us, I'm sure all I'd have to do is to issue the invitation and she'd jump at that opportunity."
Sing paused and went on. "She liked our little love potion, didn't she?"
"Everybody likes your 'little' love potion. You just have to be careful not to get hooked on it. There's nothing in the world that makes those little things run around on the inside of you better than Dr. Pao's recipe for green tea."
Sing's mood changed. "I want us to travel, Q. We've put three hard years in this business and we've made a lot of money. It's time we travel and enjoy ourselves. Where would you like to go?"
Q answered, "Are you talking about a pleasure trip?"
"Strictly pleasure. Let's take a month off and spend it having a good time. If you could go anywhere in the world and let your hair hang down, where would you go?"
Q answered, "The Seychelles."
Sing went on, "The Seychelles? That's interesting."
Q responded, "The last paradise, the best climate in the world, the best beaches, all in the middle of the Indian Ocean. If you believe all that's said about the islands, there's nothing about them that isn't perfect."
"Look at our calendar and see if we can get away in the next week or two. A little lead time will let me wrap up some loose ends."
"Do you want to stay in a hotel or lease a house?"
"Let's lease a house. Find us one in a secluded cove right on the beach."
"I'll do that this afternoon."
Q changed the subject. "What do you really think about Sabrina?"
"I like her."
"That's not what I mean.'
"What do you mean?"
"You're mysterious, Sing, but I know you better than anyone else and you don't do anything without a definite purpose."
Sing looked at Q in something of an exasperated manner and said "Q please do not get philosophical with me today. I've told you we're going to travel. We'll go to the Seychelles and spend a month. We're going to have a wonderful time. We'll take a lot of money and gamble in the casino every night. It'll be a well earned vacation. Now I don't need you getting philosophical today."
"I don't think you like Sabrina."
"I just told you that I did like Sabrina. What's a statement like that suppose to mean? I told you I didn't want to get philosophical today."
"I'm not taking philosophy. This is business. It's also personal but it's also business."
"What can be business, personal and business? I'd think it would be one or the other."
"You're jealous of Sabrina."
"Oh, come on Q. What on earth do I have to be jealous of Sabrina about?"
"You're not without your insecurities."
"Everybody has insecurities. Would I go to all the trouble and expense of a party like that for someone I didn't like?"
"Yes, you would do it for someone you didn't like. But you'd have a purpose for doing it."
"What kind of devious purpose could I possibly have had?"
"You wanted to take the most beautiful woman who has come to Shanghai in a long time and put her under your control. You and I both know this is the only woman in the whole city who can challenge you in terms of beauty. I think the stir she made among your friends and employees when she arrived in Shanghai turned the little green monsters loose in you. So you planned your little celebration. You brought her to the palace. You doped her up and paraded her stark naked in front of all of your friends and had her raped. Psychologically you treated her as a toy in front of the most influential people in Shanghai. When you can take a beautiful dignified woman and make her insatiable for sex, that's nothing but a show of power on your part. If you really liked her, you'd be protecting her psychologically, not trying to destroy her psychologically. I've watched you operate before Sing and this little ploy fits within your psyche very nicely."
"Q, do you think I'm capable of that?"
"You're not only capable, you enjoy doing it."
"There's at least a degree of truth in what you say. It was important to me to make her psychologically dependent on me. This just seemed to be a good way to do it.
Q went on. "When you can make a prostitute out of a person and she's grateful to you for doing it, that's quite an accomplishment."
Q hardened her face and said, "You think it's an accomplishment for you to reduce a woman into a plaything, a toy, something for you to use for your gratification, and assume she will stand idly by until you want to enjoy her body again. There're many beautiful women who would assume this role, but Sabrina's not one of them."
"Q, whose side are you on anyway?"
"Sing, I'm always on your side. You know that. I would never do anything that wasn't in your best interest, so don't even ask me such a foolish question. Nevertheless, that doesn't change the fact that for the first time you let jealousy control your emotions. I've never seen that in you. That's a dangerous sign. In one way it's given Sabrina the upper hand. She's made you act in a fashion that's atypical."
"Do you really think she has the upper hand?"
"I was speaking to the fact that she forced you into doing something that's not you. I would call that the upper hand."
"When she comes back over here and crawls in bed with us, will you think she has the upper hand?"
"Sing, she's not going to come back over here and crawl in bed with me. She's not going to come back over here and crawl in bed with you either."
"You're wrong there."
"No I'm not wrong. You have so much power that you're beginning to assume a God complex. That's dangerous."
"She'll come back over here. She liked it. She's sexually driven."
"Everybody likes sex, but she only became insatiable when you doped her up on your green tea concoction. She would have made love to a bedpost last night. You can't make any judgments about Sabrina based on last night. How many cups of tea did she have?"
"I don't know, but it was a lot. Every time I saw her she was drinking tea."
"Your little devious scheme may backfire on you."
"What do you mean?'
"You think you've created a love slave. You're going to be sadly mistaken. The woman has strength. While you may have used her last night, she won't let you do it again."
"You don't think she'll want a repeat?"
"No, I don't. And worse than that, once her mind clears and she realizes you treated her with total disdain, you might have created a monster. I'm serious. I think there's a very good chance that your greatest enemy is now Sabrina."
"I don't worry about enemies, Q. I'm sure there're many out there, but we don't even know about most of them."
"You better worry about this enemy. She has a strong reason to hate. Sing when you combine intelligence with hate, that's a formidable mixture."
"What do you think she'll do? Try to kill me."
"It's possible she might want to see you dead. I'm certain, however, she won't come into your office with guns blazing, acting the part of a scorned woman."
"Seriously Q, how could she hurt me?"
"That I'm not prepared to say, but she's a brilliant woman, and like you Sing, when she wants to get something done I'm sure she's very accomplished at achieving her goal."
"If you were in her place, what would you do?"
"I would destroy you. I'd make you suffer. I'd make you wish you had never heard my name."
"You're very good at role playing, Q. I can feel the animosity in your voice. You're not trying to tell me something is you?"
"No, I'm not trying to tell you anything. I'm on your side, but I was trying to impress upon you the seriousness of an enemy such as Sabrina."
"How can she destroy me?"
"I told you I don't know how she can destroy you, but I'll tell you one thing, if retribution starts coming your way, the first place I'd look is for Sabrina."
Sing asked, "Retribution?"
"Yes, retribution, she will want you destroyed financially and become a pariah among your friends. She will want your reputation as a business person decimated. This would ruin any chance of ever achieving your goal of becoming the world center for finance. If she can make you suffer through the things that are of great importance to you, she might then want to see you dead. However, she might get more enjoyment in seeing you brought down than seeing you dead. Suffering can be crueler than death. That's the way I would think."
"I didn't see any of this hidden personality in Sabrina. She was warm and open, nothing viscous and sinister. I'll admit to you that I was determined to bring her to heel and I still think that's what has happened."
"Sing, you've not brought her to heel. All you have done is create a powerful enemy. I think you're naive to believe that she would psychologically crumble by participating in an orgy with you for one evening. That's not her makeup. That's not her character. You're now in the cross hairs as far as Sabrina is concerned. I'm uncomfortable with that. If you enjoyed her in bed last night, then please remember your party was the instrument that will absolutely prohibit a reoccurrence of that little activity. And also remember this change of relationship took place because of a decision that you made through pure emotion. You take credit for your successes, so you must also take responsibility for your failures. You don't make emotional decisions. That's completely out of character for you. This little mistake of judgment might cost you dearly in the long run."
"You're a doomsayer. She has no ability to hurt me. She's in no position to damage my financial empire. My reputation in the business world is beyond reproach. And you know yourself that it's growing every day. Within the next eighteen months our software will be in every major banking system in the world. Pao Banking Services will be the dominant accounting system in the world. It's too good. It has too much inertia. There is nothing Sabrina can do about that. Even you, in your most pessimistic moments, said she would not come in here with a pistol in her hand. That's not her style. That's not her approach. Not only would Security never allow it, but the thought would never enter her mind. And as far as getting her back in bed, you're going to have to say 'Sing I was wrong.' She'll be back and it won't be long either."
"You'll never hear me say I was wrong. Do you know why? It's because I'm not wrong. Because you were jealous of Sabrina, your rash act may well create some uncomfortable moments for you in the near future. I'm serious. I think you need to be on your guard."
"How can I be on my guard? I don't even know what you're talking about."
"I'm telling you. Look for retribution."
"Even though I don't believe it for a moment, let's assume you're right. If she's become a great danger to me what should I do about it?"
"That's exactly what I mean. A dead person no longer has the ability to endanger you and all that you've worked for."
"Don't you view that as extreme?"
"Sing, you know I'm not a violent person. You have never heard me make such a recommendation before. But she's formidable. She's intelligent. She's backed by a lot of money and powerful people. If I'm right about her animosity, the only safe thing for you to do is to see that she's put away. When she goes away, your problems go away."
"Q, send Security for her right now. Have her brought to the palace."
"What if she resists?"
"She really doesn't have a choice in the matter. Have them take a hypodermic of sodium penathol. It's probably better that we don't even ask."
"What about Nat?"
"Have them take two hypodermics. I want him invited too. Then have their belongings picked up at the hotel and brought to the palace. We want to start erasing the trail that connects them with us. As far as we're concerned they'll have left Shanghai for parts unknown. We don't know where they have gone. I'm going to leave it up to you Q to make arrangements for Sabrina and Nat to disappear permanently."
"Do you admit you made a mistake?"
"Q you're pressing your luck, but we're frank with each other. Yes, I made a mistake. I let emotion make a decision for me. You can rest assured that I'll never let that happen again. The shame of the matter is that we're not totally sure you're right. However, I'm not willing to take a chance. Get busy Q."
Thursday, June 29, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
While the conversation between Sing and Q was taking place, Sabrina arrived at her office. She spoke quickly with Oatti and headed directly into Nat's office. When she burst through the door, agitation showed all over her face.
Sabrina blurted out, "Nat, I'm going to kill her! I swear I'm going to kill her!"
"What on earth is the matter? What went wrong?"
"You don't even want to hear."
"Yes, I do want to hear."
"Nat, I was taken advantage of last night, and I'm serious. I'm going to kill her."
"You are serious."
"You're damned right I am. Let me tell you what happened last night and you'll understand why I want to kill her."
Sabrina took thirty minutes to recount every detail of the previous night's activities. He listened very patiently but without emotion.
When she had finished, Nat asked, "Was it the tea?"
"Yes, but I didn't realize it at the time. The tea was so damn innocuous. I loved it. I must have had a hundred cups. At least it seemed like I did. It must have been laced with opium. It was just enough to heighten your sexual desires but not enough to dull your senses. I was wired! Everything I did during the whole evening was as if I was wired. I can see how people can get off on that stuff. It takes you to another level. I was superwoman for an evening. But it's addictive. I couldn't wait for another cup."
"Were you surprised at what happened?"
"Totally, now don't get me wrong, I expected a sexual encounter. That goes with our business. However, I didn't expect to get doped up and publicly screwed. She used me. She used me to entertain her friends. It was jealousy. Everyone was extolling my physical attributes. She just couldn't stand it. She had to show how easy she could use me as a form of entertainment."
Sabrina took a deep breath and went on. "I royally entertained everybody in that room last night. I danced naked so they could get their rocks off. The beautiful American girl was no match for the glamorous Dr. Pao. Nat, I would have screwed everybody in south Shanghai last night. Just line the God damn people up and I would have screwed them. I was wired, I was used. Worst of all, she now thinks I belong to her. She really thinks that after last night I'll always be at her beck and call. That's what's killing me. Now she feels so superior."
Sabrina took another deep breath and her anger became worse. "Nat, I'm going to destroy her. I'm going to take all her money. I'm going to expose her as a fraud and a thief. I'm going to make her wish she'd never been born. Then when I'm satisfied she's been degraded enough, I'm going to kill her. I swear I'm going to kill her."
"Sabrina, you need to calm down. You know I love you and I'm totally on your side. Let's think this thing through rationally. I don't want you to do anything you'll regret."
"Nat, you know I'm smarter than that. I'll be very careful. You're not talking to a novice. You're talking to a member of the Fraternity. Sing will suffer. She will pay. I don't care how long it takes me."
Nat rose and took Sabrina in his arms. "Sabrina, you won't have to kill her. I'll do it for you."
"Thanks, Nat, but I want to do it myself."
"Then, how can I help you?"
Sabrina answered, "By taking care of the computers. I'll take care of Sing Pao when the time is right. But our first priority is to get the money and get out of Shanghai immediately. That will come close to killing her."
"Sabrina, as far as the computers are concerned, we're ready to go. Hal and Holbrook can barely wait. But you're right. The second the money is moved, we've got to get the hell out of here. Just say the word, and we're in business."
"Nat, I'm ready. Let's don't waste another minute. Turn them loose!"
Nat gave Sabrina the thumbs up sign, and turned to Hal.
"Hal, I have some important work for you to do."
"Thank you, sir. I have been waiting for you to give us the go ahead."
"Do you have the list of all of the accounts where the money is hidden?"
"Yes, sir, I do."
"Good. I want you to do something very important for me."
"I'm ready, sir, for my instructions."
"First, I want you to focus on the complex at Xi’an for me. I want you to do everything that's humanly possible to shut down that operation. That's an interesting term to use on you, isn't it, 'humanly possible'?"
"I understand, sir."
"You're sure that you can get into all of the computers in the Xi’an complex?"
"Yes, sir, I can get into all of them."
"It's certain she has redundancy and has backed up her software program on all the computers. She wouldn't want a malfunction to put her out of business."
"Yes, sir, they are on all of the computers."
"I'm going to ask you to do something that Sing Pao will have never expected. I want you to go into the operating system of each of her computers. I want you to write over every position of memory on the disk drives. I want no possibility of data recovery. Once the computer is completely blank I want you to zero the operating system's positions of memory as far as you can go before it ceases to function. I want to do everything we possibly can to give them a blank computer."
"Yes, sir, I can do that."
"Now, Hal, after we're certain that we've done as much damage to Dr. Pao's computers as we possibly can, I want you to do the same thing to yourself. I want you to zero everything in your memory and on your disk drives. I want no possibility of anyone finding anything in you."
"Yes, sir, I'll do that. What about the computers in the twelve branches of the Bank of Shanghai?"
"That's a good idea, Hal. I hadn't thought of that."
"Sir, I was only referring to the programs that relate to the compound at Xi’an, not legitimate bank business."
"Thank God for that, Hal. We have $10 million in that bank, but you're right. Let's do everything we possibly can to blank out the compound at Xi’an. Let me talk to Holbrook for a moment, Hal."
Nat turned and looked at Holbrook lying on his desk. "Holbrook, our big moment has arrived. While Hal is shutting down all of the computers at Xi’an, I want you to do two things for me."
"Yes, sir, I'll be glad to."
"First, I want you to take the list of accounts that Hal has given you and transfer all of Dr. Pao's money out of those accounts and shuffle them as quickly as you can, the way we planned."
"Yes, sir, I will do that."
"Second, I want you to place a message on all of the computers that are doing business with Dr. Pao's network."
"Yes, sir, I'll do that."
"The message is going to be a little advertisement on our part. This message is to go into every E-mail box that you can find on the banking network. This should reach the executives of the major banks. I also want all systems administrators get this message. Mark it "urgent" where they'll read it as soon as it comes in."
"Yes, sir, I'll do that."
"This is what I want the message to say:
'Warning! Warning! Warning! Dr. Sing Pao, the president and chief executive officer of Pao Banking Services in Xi’an, the People's Republic of China, has the most efficient banking and financial software to be found anywhere in the world. Many banking systems have already installed her software and are using it to operate their accounting system. Let me stress that the software is excellent.,
For those in the banking world, you may have heard of the phenomenal rise to power of Dr. Sing Pao through her accumulation of wealth. Dr. Pao is now worth more than $500 billion. This wealth is legitimate and is in cash. It's my unfortunate duty to announce to you that all $500 million was stolen from various banking systems throughout the world. This theft was possible because Dr. Pao has written an algorithm that can break passwords using the power of a super computer. Using this algorithm, she was able to analyze the accounts in your bank and identify inactive accounts of one year or more. All the funds were transferred out of the inactive accounts into new accounts within your bank that she created using bogus account numbers. There is no biographical data tagged to any of these new accounts. With her software in place in your bank, she has complete access to all your financial records. Dr. Pao is able to move funds at will. Your funds have become her funds. It is very important that you have your systems administrator break any connections with the Pao Banking Services in Xi’an of the People's Republics in China.
Now, the good news, Dr. Pao is no longer in possession of the $500 billion. More good news, a new firm will be established in Atlanta, Georgia, under the name of International Banking Services. This firm will be privately owned, but its staff will be selected from nominees made by the one hundred largest banks in the world. The board of directors will be elected from nominees from the thirty largest banks in the world. It is important that International Banking Services has the confidence of the financial community. It will operate as the central bank for all systems that choose to become members. International Banking Services will be capitalized by an investment of $1 billion by its private owners. All inquiries for information about International Banking Services should be addressed to that company at Box 999999 in Atlanta, Georgia.'
Sabrina broke in, "Nat, we don't have a post office box in Atlanta yet, and when Joe Hobbit gets us one, it certainly won't be that number."
"Tell Joe what I've done, and have him contact the central post office, and tell them that they'll be getting mail addressed to this fictitious box number. I know they don't have six digit box numbers, so their mail sorter will have no problem accumulating those as rejects. Joe can arrange with the post master to collect all inquiries to this box number. Sabrina, it was all I could think to do on such short notice, but I'm certain it will work."
Nat turned to the computer. "Holbrook, did you get all of that?"
"Yes, sir, I got it all."
Nat turned back to Hal. "Hal, how long will it take to shut Dr. Pao down?"
"Not very long, sir, all you're asking me to do is zero the positions of memory. We can do that at the speed of light."
"No possibilities of data recovery?"
"No sir. No possibility of data recovery. We're writing over every position of memory. There's nothing residual. All positions will stand at zero."
"Holbrook, do you have the list of accounts?"
"Yes, sir, I have the list."
"Good. Go ahead and get the money, and after you've properly shuffled the money and hidden it, send your message to the bankers."
"Yes, sir, I will."
"Hal, are you ready?"
"Yes, sir, I'm ready."
"Great. Shut Dr. Pao down. Put her out of business. Within the next thirty seconds, the richest woman in the world is going to be the poorest. At least she's going to be poorer in terms of ready cash."
"Sabrina, can you be ready to go in ten minutes?"
"I'm ready to go now. All I need to do is to unplug Suzy Q, and close the cover."
"Sir, it will be more like five minutes."
"That's even better. Tell me when our work is complete. Then we're going to get the hell out of here."
Nat turned to Hal. "Hal, it's been good working with you. Thanks for all you've done. I'll never forget you, man."
There was silence. Hal did not respond.
"Sabrina, I feel as if my best friend has died. I swear I think of Hal as being human."
"He's better than human. He has intelligence, and he wasn't looking out only for himself. He blanked all of the computers in Xi’an, and then he blanked himself. He followed your wishes, even though he ended up killing himself."
"You make me sad, as if I've asked a computer to commit suicide."
"You did ask a computer to commit suicide, but you don't have to be sad about it. After all, it's just a computer."
"I want everything in Holbrook redundant in Suzy Q."
"That's already been done. Holbrook copied the account numbers into a hidden file in Suzy Q, so we're safe unless somehow we lost both of our notebooks."
"In the next three or four minutes we need to pick up our notebooks and leave as if we're going home early. I think we should go directly to the airport and catch the first plane out of this country going anywhere. Sing Pao is going to be looking for us, but it will take her a little reaction time. When she finds that all of her main frames have been shut down, she's going to be thinking about her business, not about us. It may be several days before she finds out that her $500 billion is gone. With her own computers shut down, she may not relate the two facts. I suspect she'll think this was some sort of anomaly, and make the assumption that her money is perfectly safe because it's spread in banks all around the world."
"Nat, we've made a good start," said Sabrina. "I'm feeling better already. We've taken her $500 billion away from her, and we've discredited her in the banking world through your note. I think it's loss of face that's going to crush her more than anything. Without the immense wealth, she will lose all of her influence inside the People's Republic."
"She does have the Bank of Shanghai. That will keep her solvent."
"Yes, it will keep her solvent for a while, but I want her out of that too. We need to figure a way to take the Bank of Shanghai away from Sing."
"Do you have any ideas?"
"Yes, I think I can make it work. We can copy all of the files from the Bank of Shanghai into the computer of the Bank of Hong Kong. I mean all of the files, the accounts with the tagged biographical information, everything. The Bank of Hong Kong will then have complete duplicates of everything that was in the Bank of Shanghai. We can then notify the Bank of Hong Kong as to what we've done and why we were brash enough to move these accounts out of the People's Republic. Their back up records in Xi’an has already been zeroed. As soon as we make this transfer, we'll zero all of the computers in the twelve branches of the Bank of Shanghai. Effectively, there will be no more bank, but the money will be safely on deposit in Hong Kong. Does that sound reasonable to you?"
"It sounds reasonable to me."
"Aren't computers wonderful?"
"I wonder how Sing Pao would answer that question in the morning."
Holbrook spoke up. "Sir, the transactions are complete."
"Thank you, Holbrook. We'll be leaving now."
Nat walked to the desk and unplugged the cable from Holbrook that connected to the wall. He closed the cover, and then proceeded with Sabrina into her office. She unplugged Suzy Q from the wall, closed the door, and picked up her purse. "Nat, are we going back to the hotel?"
"I don't think it would be wise. We need to get out of China as quickly as possible. I also think it would be smart to use one of our alternate passports."
"I agree. I never let them get very far from me, if I can help it."
They walked through into the outer office, and Sabrina said, "Oatti, please stay in close touch with Dr. Ling this afternoon. We're expecting to hear from his team. I think within a day or two, we may have some purchases to make. When we really get into business, you may be swamped for a while. If that happens, I think we're going to need larger quarters and four or five more staff people. Why don't you tell Dr. Ling what our expectations are, and start finding us some excellent computer operators. There may be some employees in the bank who would be exactly what we need for our operation. While I don't think Dr. Ling would be happy in losing his employees, if they were making a lot of money for him, he might not hold a grudge too long."
"I'll do that this afternoon. Is there anything else you want me to do?"
"No. We'll be back early in the morning, and if Dr. Ling's team has been successful, I think things will start popping around here soon."
Nat spoke. "See you in the morning, Oatti."
"I'll be right here bright and early, with your coffee ready."
Nat and Sabrina left the office and proceeded down the hall to the elevator and descended the eighteen stories to the street. They walked to the corner, and caught a cab.
"Airport, please, we are flying on Cathay Pacific."
Sabrina took Nat's computer and placed it on the other side of her with Suzy Q. She slid across the seat and snuggled up to him, placing as many square inches of her body against Nat as she could. She closed her eyes, and a noise came from her mouth that sounded very much like a purring of a kitten. Nat then heard Sabrina mumble something under her breath. He wasn't exactly sure what she said, but it sounded very much like "I'm going to kill her."
Thursday, June 29, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
Q walked back into Sing's office and said, "Security just reported back, and they can't find Sabrina and Nat."
"Where did they look?"
Q answered "In their office and in their hotel room."
"What did Oatti say?"
"She said they had left about ten minutes before security arrived."
"Did she say where they were going?"
"They asked, but Oatti didn't know. She said Sabrina gave her a number of assignments and said that she would see her in the morning."
"Tell security to stay at their hotel and pick them up whenever they arrive."
"I'm not going to feel easy until we have them safely in our hands."
Q then smiled and continued, "I feel a tad hypocritical when I talk about safety for Sabrina and Nat."
Sing also smiled and then said, "Q, I am really sorry that we're going to have to resort to extreme measures in dealing with those two. I really like them, and would like to be in business with them. If we were not going to dispose of them, we would make them very rich. That's the irony of the whole situation."
"You're not losing your resolve, are you?"
No. I don't believe it's a matter of resolve, but I'd like to make very sure that they have some antagonism toward me that's threatening to our operations."
"I think it's important that we approach this matter in a business-like sort of way, What is best for Pao Banking Services and the Bank of Shanghai."
"You don't have to explain the matter to me as if I am a simpleton. I am fully aware of the threat they pose. I'm sure there's a touch of remorse, however. It was my competitiveness with Sabrina that appears to be the root cause of the problem."
"I'm glad you used the word "appears."
"You must be putting more emphasis on the word than I intended."
"No. I don't think I'm putting more emphasis on the word than you intended. I think you're right. I know I've been somewhat uneasy about the two Americans, but you are very intuitive too, Sing. You all but bloodied my brow when I brought the matter up, but these two were able to get into your confidence in a way that neither of us has ever experienced. That was alarming to me, and after you thought about it, it had to be at least puzzling."
"Is there a message in there somewhere among your ramblings?"
"Yes. A strong message, their primary focus may not have been the acquisition of businesses in the People's Republic. Their focus may have been Dr. Sing Pao."
"You really believe that?"
"I don't know, but I refuse to rule it out. Coincidence makes me nervous."
"What do you think they want, if it is not the acquisition of businesses?"
"It's hard to say. But one thing we know is that they have a lot of money. There is $10 million on deposit in the Bank of Shanghai. I do believe them when they say that they have substantial other resources and are backed by people with very deep pockets."
"I believe them too. They're people of culture and breeding, and are very comfortable around people of wealth. You do bring up an interesting point. Were they here with $10 million in cash and bankrolled by another $100 million? That in anybody's mind is quite an investment. If you were willing to risk $100 million on a business venture in a third world nation, what would you be expecting in return?"
"I would expect billions."
"Yes, billions, but they could be legitimate. They could be everything they represent themselves to be. I agree that the People's Republic is going to be the next great industrial power. Sabrina and Nat were targeting exactly the right businesses. The People's Republic has already proven to be competitive in toys, electronics and hand tools. You can't fault their business judgment there. It's exactly the three areas of business I would be targeting."
"They're investing $100 million."
"I know that. However, there're billions to be made."
"There're billions to be made if they were left alone and allowed to operate in a free market economy."
"I see no problem in allowing them to operate in a free market. These three industries are already competing very well."
"Sing, why are successful business people leaving Hong Kong by the thousands?"
Sing furrowed her brow and said, "They're unsure of the business climate that will prevail when the People's Republic assumes control."
"If these people are so unsure of the business climate, and to be frank, have a great suspicion that those businesses and industries will be nationalized by our government, they're cutting their losses and leaving."
"You are making a good point."
"$100 million is a lot of money to invest in mainland China when success could become its own seeds of destruction. If they start making a lot of money, our government could decide to take over everything they have on a whim. It's not only possible, but I would say very likely that our government would not be highly pleased that an American syndicate started taking billions of dollars out of our republic."
"Q, you really do have something to offer other than your good looks. I don't know if you're right or not, but you've certainly raised a serious question in my mind. Have you any idea what they would be willing to invest $100 million to do?"
"We've agreed that $100 million investment in the People's Republic is risky. Where great risk is involved, then great rewards must be involved. To invest $100 million, you must expect the return to be in billions. If we rule out business investments, there is only one other place in all of the People's Republic that possesses the kind of rewards they'd have to expect."
She answered, "You."
"You just could be right."
"If you're their target, they certainly made a lot of progress in three or four days. They prance into Hong Kong loaded with money and then come directly to Shanghai and present Dr. Pao a package that she cannot resist, two gorgeous human beings with money to burn and business connections everywhere. Hell, nobody could resist a package like that. They're smart. They've been able to walk right in the front door as if they owned the place. No one has been allowed easier access than they have."
"We're now in the process of putting a stop to their intrusions."
"It's the smart thing to do. Whatever their intentions, they're too risky to have around. Their presence also has taught us an important lesson. I don't think it's likely that you will be as generous or as hospitable in the future to strangers." The telephone rang, interrupting the conversation between Sing and Q. The red button by the intercom was illuminated.
Sing picked up the phone and said, "Yes?"
Dr. Pao's secretary responded, "Dr. Ling is on the phone, and needs to speak to you. He says it's urgent."
"I'll speak with him." The call transfer was made and Sing said, "What's the problem? I don't recall you classifying anything as urgent before."
"My computer is down."
"What do you mean, your computer is down?"
"Down is not a good way to phrase it. The computer is functioning fine, but it is not able to copy the transactions to Xi’an."
"That's impossible. Our monitoring system would have detected a potential malfunction long before it happened."
"That's what makes it puzzling. I've heard nothing from Xi’an."
"Have you contacted Xi’an?"
"Well, I've tried to contact Xi’an, but there's no response."
"Have you telephoned them?"
"No. I wanted to report this to you directly. I'll call them right now."
"Let me know what you find out as soon as you talk with them." Before Sing severed her connection with Mr. Ling, the telephone rang again, and the intercom button was illuminated.
"I have another call. Get back with me as soon as you find out something." Sing pressed the intercom button and said, "Yes?"
Her secretary responded, "You have another urgent call. This time it's from Xi’an. I didn't know whether to interrupt your conversation with Dr. Ling or not."
"Let me talk with them. Dr. Ling and I are through for the moment. He will be calling back soon, and when he does, I want to talk with him right away."
"Yes, Dr. Pao."
Sing pressed the second illuminated button, opening the line between her office and Xi’an. "Yes?"
"Dr. Pao, our computers are down."
"You said computers? Which computers are you talking about.?"
"All of them."
"What do you mean down?"
"They're dead in the water."
"I don't understand what you're saying. How could our computers be dead in the water?"
"They don't respond to anything. They're down, and they won't even boot."
Sing's brow furrowed. "How could they not boot? The operating system would have to be gone for them not to boot."
"We're in the process of investigating the problem right now, but I wanted to let you know. You'd think it would be impossible for all of our computers to be down, but nevertheless, they're all in the same fix. They're just sitting there like big boxes."
Sing spoke rapidly. "Go ahead and install a new operating system on one of them, and run diagnostics on the computer. I want to find out everything that our diagnostics can tell."
"I'll do that right away, and call you back. It shouldn't take but just a very few minutes."
Sing's mind reflected on her earlier conversation. "Wait a minute. There is something really screwy going on here. Mr. Ling says that his communications on his computer here in Shanghai are also down."
"What about the accounts for the customers and the accounting system. Did he lose those?"
"No. Everything else seems to be functioning properly. He only lost his communications with you. As soon as you're up and running, we want you to run diagnostics on Dr. Ling's computer and reestablish communications. He's having no trouble with his local operations but of course, he is not able to copy to you until you're up and going. Get back to me as soon as you have something to report."
Q was sitting quietly by, agitated not to be able to ask Sing some questions about the obvious emergencies that were taking place. Unfortunately there had not been a break in the conversation allowing any inquiry. The telephone rang and the intercom light was again illuminated. Sing said over the phone, "My secretary is buzzing me right now. Don't waste any time in reporting results of the diagnostics. Stop everything you're doing and put as many people on the job as it takes. We can't afford to be down even for a few seconds. This is serious."
Sing pressed the button and responded to her secretary, "Yes?"
"Dr. Pao, I don't know what's happening. We're being flooded by telephone calls from all of the branches of your bank. All of the presidents are wanting to speak to you, and they're indicating it is a matter of much urgency. Which one would you like to speak with first?"
"Let's conference all of us together and see what's going on. All hell is breaking loose."
Sing's secretary activated the conference call feature on her phone system, and Sing was now connected with eleven bank presidents. Sing greeted them, "Yes?" All wanted to speak at once. Sing said, "Wait a minute! I can't understand anything if you're all speaking at once. Calm down."
There was an abrupt silence on the telephone line. Sing inquired, "Are you having computer problems?" There was a chorus of replies in unison, "Yes!"
"Are the problems related to your communications with Xi’an?" In unison, "Yes."
"Are you accounts safely intact?"
"Had any of you been notified by the computers at Xi’an that there was a potential malfunction pending?"
"I have just talked to Xi’an, and they're reporting serious problems. They indicated that all of their main frames went down simultaneously. That explains why you were not able to get any response, but you're telling me that you no only lost communications with Xi’an, but are actually having a malfunction in your own computer, and your failures appear to be simultaneous. Am I correct?"
"All of this should be impossible, but we know for a fact that it happened. Now we've got to find out how it happened and why it happened."
Sing paused and then said, "Let me get off the telephone, and get busy. I have a lot of work to do. We'll talk later in the day."
Sing hung up the phone and turned to Q. "Could you tell from my conversation the problems we're having?"
"It's obvious you're having malfunctions in the computers in Xi’an and to some extent at all of your branches. What's going on?"
"I don't know. It sounds as though it's impossible. Xi’an tells me that all the computers are down there, and all of the branches are reporting that their communications to Xi’an have malfunctioned."
"If Xi’an is down, you know the branches couldn't contact them. That explains their problem."
"No. It really doesn't. They say that their own communications software has malfunctioned in the individual computer. We have problems everywhere. All of this came without warning, and that's impossible. If there was a potential malfunction of any computer, our monitoring system would have detected it long before anything shut down."
Sing's conversation with Q was interrupted when the telephone rang. The intercom button was illuminated, and Sing pressed. "Yes?"
"Dr. Pao, Xi’an is on the line."
"Put them through right away."
"Are you up and running again?"
"We installed the operating system on one of the main frames."
"What did the diagnostics show?"
"They don't show anything."
"What do you mean, they don't show anything? The computers are malfunctioning. They have to show what the cause was."
"Dr. Pao, I am telling you they don't show anything. There is no indicated malfunction of the computer. It is absolutely perfect."
"Dammit, don't tell me everything is perfect when the computers are shut down."
"The computers are perfect. There are no mechanical or electronic problems in the computers. That's the good news. I do have some bad, no I have some terrible news."
"What is that?"
"There is nothing in the computer."
Sing said, "Nothing in the computer? You told me it was functioning perfectly."
"Yes. It's functioning perfectly, but there is still nothing in the computer. Every position of memory is blank."
"What about the disk drives?"
"Every position of memory on the disk drive is blank."
"What about the tape backup?"
He answered, "Same thing. Everything position is blank."
"Have you started our data recovery procedures?"
"Yes. They're underway."
She asked, "Any problem with recovery?"
"There is nothing to recover. Every position of memory has been written over."
"Written over with what?"
He answered, "Written over with zeros."
"Written over with zeros?"
"Yes. Every position of memory in the computer, on the disk drives and on the tapes has been systematically written over with zeros. There is no way to recover any data."
"Is this true on all of the computers?"
"We don't know yet, but I imagine it is. We're now booting them up, but the similarity of malfunction is all the same. I would be very surprised if we find any data in the computers."
"When was the last time you had a big dump?"
"It couldn't have been more than thirty minutes. We systematically dump one of the computers on thirty-minute intervals, and they're redundant, so we really shouldn't hurt. We'll pull the last tape dump for all of the computers, and reinstall all of the files. We can have that done within a few minutes. Then we'll match the files and make all of the computers redundant again. I don't think we're in trouble as far as information is concerned. The major question we have to answer is how did this happen."
"Get your computers running again, and then call me back."
"Do you want me to call you back when all of the computers are reloaded or when the first computer is reloaded?"
"I want you to call me back as soon as the first computer is reloaded. I've got $500 billion involved in this problem, and I want to know that it's safe before we make any other moves."
"I'll call you back in ten minutes."
"Good. I'm going to stay right here waiting for your phone call."
Sing turned back to Q. "We'll have everything restored within ten minutes, but that still doesn't explain the malfunction."
"Come on, Q. Don't start that again."
"Has anything like this ever happened before?"
"You know it hasn't, and I’m not going to listen to that woman-scorned business again. These two things cannot be related. An embarrassed woman is not capable of zeroing my computers within hours of having her vanity tarnished."
"I agree with you there. I'm wrong about retribution. Your computer problems have nothing to do with Sabrina's retribution. That would be impossible, but I didn't say that your computer problems didn't have anything to do with Sabrina."
"What do you mean?"
"It's my opinion that Sabrina and Nat came to Shanghai for the very purpose that we've just witnessed."
"Why would Sabrina and Nat want to tamper with the computers?"
"I don't think they dreamed it up on their own. I think they were employed to do it."
"Employed by whom?"
"How would I know that, Sing? There's no way for me to know who employed them, but I have a strong suspicion as to why they employed them."
Sinf answered, "$100 million investment."
Q stated, "Yes, the $100 million investment."
Sing asked, "You think they're after my money, don't you?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I think. That's the only reason anyone would be willing to invest $100 million. That's a reasonable investment if the potential return is $500 billion."
"There's no way they could get the $500 billion. It's spread too widely, and the identity and locations of those accounts are securely protected."
"Protected by what?"
"Passwords, I. D. numbers."
"You're telling me that passwords and I.D. numbers can protect accounts in computers? Isn't that a little naive, Sing? You're the one who has proven that there's no protection at all. You can break computer security in fractions of a second."
"I know I can, but no one else has that software."
"What about an inside job?"
Sing looked sharply at Q, "Inside? You mean some of our associates?"
"Do you know of any other way they could get the software?"
"No, but I can't believe any of our associates would make it available to them. There Sing firmly answered, are only twelve people outside of me who have access to the software, and they're the closest friends I have."
"You can't count on friendship when billions of dollars are involved."
Sing's brow furrowed, and her eyes closed slightly, indicating deep thought. "I guess it's possible even though it's hard for me to believe."
"Do you have any other explanation?"
"No. I don't. There's no software like mine anywhere else. To my knowledge there's not even anyone working on algorithms to break passwords, but even if there were, no one has put in the years of background study that I did that's necessary to write the software."
"Are you sure that Sabrina and Nat could not have obtained a copy of your algorithms without getting into the computer at Xi’an?"
"I'm very sure."
"Are you confident of the security at Xi’an?"
Sing firmly answered, "Totally confident."
"If someone had your software, could they break the security at Xi’an?"
"Of course they could. My software will break any security."
"Then we can come to the conclusion that it was either an inside job or Sabrina and Nat have a copy of your password algorithm."
"That's a safe assumption."
"Let's explore all the possibilities before we jump to any conclusions."
"Q, that's a wise position to take, but you've already indicated that the options are very narrow. They have either bribed one of my closest associates, or they have a copy of the software. We know the software doesn't exist anywhere other than in the computers in Xi’an. So the only alternative is a financial connection with one of our associates and the Americans."
"Think, Sing, think, don't leave any stone unturned. Put that incredible head of yours to work. I want you to be totally confident that the software does not exist anywhere outside of Xi’an. If you're dead certain that it does not exist and your problems are on the inside, then someone is going to die. In fact, several people are going to die, and you can't do that until you're certain that you were really as careful as you think you were."
"You know, I'm certain the work was all done in Xi’an. Everything that we did was on the inside of the walls of the compound. There's no question about that."
"All of it?"
"All of it."
"Think, Sing, think, are you certain, please be certain. Some of our best friends are going to die if you're not."
"Oh, God, Q, God Almighty, Q. You're worth your weight in gold." Sing closed her eyes, tilted her chin toward the ceiling and placed both hands on her forehead. "Q. Q. It was staring me in the face, but I couldn't recognize it."
"Recognize the lead. Thank God you kept hammering on me to be certain, to be sure."
"What is it? What are you talking about?"
"We kept talking about the wrong person, Q."
"What do you mean the wrong person?"
"We kept talking about Sabrina. It was our focus on Sabrina that kept me from seeing the obvious."
"I don't understand. What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Nat."
"What about Nat?"
"It was staring me in the face, and I missed it. That's embarrassing. It was staring me in the face, and I missed it."
"Dammit, Sing. Tell me what in the hell you're talking about. I'm going crazy."
"What is Nat's profession?"
"He makes business investments."
"No. I'm not talking about his current profession. I'm talking about the profession that he just left."
"He was a college professor."
"Yes. He was college professor. Do you think he has ever directed dissertations?"
"I'm certain he's directed dissertations. He must have directed hundreds."
"What else do you know about him?"
"He is an authority on computers."
"Are you beginning to make the connection?"
"He's an authority on computers, and he has directed dissertations."
"Well, we've said that. What are you leading to?"
"Do you think he knows what happens to dissertations and the supporting research?"
"Of course he knows what happens to it. He's worked in the field for years."
"You don't see yet, Q?"
"Think about it."
"Sing, your dissertation is at Cal-Tech and the Library of Congress. Your research is at Cal-Tech. The articles you published are at Cal-Tech. Everything that you have ever done prior to coming to Xi’an is on file at Cal-Tech."
"Yes, at Cal-Tech, and our handsome college professor was clever enough to know that."
"But you've done a hell of a lot of work on that algorithm since you left Cal-Tech. That algorithm was crude compared to the one you have now."
"Yes it is, Q, crude, but effective, very effective. That work was far enough advanced to break our codes at Xi’an, perhaps not as easily as we can do it, but nevertheless, it would work. Who would have thought to look there other than a college professor?"
"So Nat didn't need inside help to get into our computer?"
"No. The only help he needed he got from me directly. I should have removed the work from their files, but it never occurred to me. Had it occurred, it would have still been a difficult task to have performed. It would be a little like committing professional suicide. We're all emotional about our academic years, and had it been destroyed, the substance of our research from my dissertation would have not been an easy thing to do, but nevertheless, the reason I didn't do it was the fact that I didn't think of it. I didn't even relate the fact that my old work was on file with the possibility of someone discovering it and using it. He's clever, damn clever."
"Should we check Cal-Tech to see if Nat has secured your research?"
"I guess we should, but I'm reasonably certain that the fact will be confirmed."
"Why don't you check to at least put your mind at ease?"
"Let me get that behind us."
Sing turned to her computer and said, "I want you to enter the computer at the California Institute of Technology. I want you to check their logs and see if any of my work done at Cal-Tech has been accessed or downloaded within recent months. If you find out my college work has been accessed, I want you to find out when the inquiries took place and who made them."
"Yes, m'am, I will check right away."
Sing turned back to Q. "We've now got to come up with Plan B. If it is Nat and Sabrina, then we will pick them up at the hotel as soon as they return and take them directly to my palace. I want them out of the way just as quickly as possible. I'm going to leave that little task up to you and security, Q."
The telephone rang, and the intercom button was illuminated. Sing pressed the button and said, "Yes?"
"Xi’an is on the phone."
Sing press the other illuminated button and said, "What have you found out?"
Q said, "Bad news, Sing."
"I've had nothing but bad news for the last hour. How bad is it?"
She answered, "Totally bad. Your money is gone."
"Gone? $500 billion are gone?"
"Yes. Every penny is gone."
"Have you started tracking the transfers?"
"Yes. We're tracking them right now."
"What have you found?"
"The accounts to which your money was transferred no longer exist."
"They transferred the money to some accounts that no longer exist?"
"Yes. That is the same thing that we do. Money is being moved, probably being shuffled, and moved again. Every time the money is moved, the accounts are erased. There's no audit trail. There's no way to trace the money. The money is gone."
"You're right. There's no audit trail, but we're talking about $500 billion. That's hard to hide. As soon as you get all the operating systems on our computers working, I want you to focus your full attention on analyzing deposit and withdrawal information on every bank on a network. If our money has been transferred, it will have to have been done electronically, and even though the audit trail doesn't exist, we can detect any abnormality of fluctuations in the banking system. Analyze every bank's activity for the last thirty minutes. Plot me a profile of banks that had abnormal deposits and withdrawals amounting to millions of dollars. This is what I want you to do, when you detect a bank that has an abnormal amount of activity, note the time that the deposits and withdrawals were made. I want this down to seconds. Shuffling money under computer control is going to give us a signature that was not expected. I want a list of banks that received large deposits at precisely the same time. Then I want a list of banks that were subject to large withdrawals at virtually the same time. The timing of the deposits and withdrawals will be progressive, and the last time sequence should be the final resting place of our $500 billion. The perpetrators of this crime may not have been as clever as they think they were. We don't need a traditional audit trail to track the money. As soon as you find our money, I want it drawn out of the system and brought back and kept deposited in Xi’an in the name of the Bank of Shanghai."
The Xi’an President stated, "Sing, you're a genius. You're absolutely incredible. We'll get all of our computers working on the project right now. We'll track the money, find it, and bring it back to Xi’an and sit on it. We've learned a valuable lesson."
"Call me back as soon as you have the money in hand."
The Xi’an President answered, "Will do."
Sing hung up the receiver. The computer spoke. "Dr. Pao."
"I was waiting until you completed your telephone conversation."
"You have news for me?"
"Yes. Inquiries were made concerning your work at the California Institute of Technology. The inquiries were charged to the account of Dr. Nat Turner. Copies of all files relating to your research were copied and downloaded to the computer located in Dr. Turner's office on the eighteenth floor of the Bank of Shanghai building."
"Thank you, but let me ask you to do another favor."
"Yes, of course."
"I want you to access the computers in Dr. Turner and Ms. Cabernet's office, and see if the documentation you just mentioned is there. Then I want a complete record of every transaction made by their computers since occupying the office. Will you do that for me?"
"Yes m'am. Would you please wait one moment?"
"I'll be glad to."
"There's no response from the computers in Dr. Turner and Ms. Cabernet's office."
"No response at all?"
The computer replied, "None at all."
Sing asked, "Can you analyze the problem?"
"There's no software or operating system present in either of the machines. They're completely blank."
Sing turned to Q. "You're right on target. Their computers have been totally flushed of information. I'm sure their disks have been written over with zeros to prohibit data recovery. There's no log, there are no files to trace. Nat and Sabrina are our culprits. When they blanked their computers that indicate they had no intention of returning to that office, no matter what they told Oatti. They'll also know that when our computers went down that there's a reasonable chance we will look for them right away. If they're as smart as I think they are, they'll not go anywhere near that hotel. You can have one of our security people stay at the hotel just to make sure this is true, but I really think that's a waste of time. They're going to want to get out of the country as rapidly as possible. We can hope they'll use their own names, but anyone clever enough to steal $500 billion, I'm sure, has fake credentials. They'll forge credentials allowing them to travel under assumed names. Get security to the airport as quickly as possible. There's a chance we might find them before they board a plane."
Q quickly got out of her chair. "I'll be back in few minutes. I'm going to my office give security their assignments. I'm also going to have our computer search airline reservations to see if their names appear on the manifest. I'll be back in ten minutes."
Q left the office, and Sing leaned back in her chair in deep thought. Within the promised ten minutes, Q returned to Sing's office to report on her activities. "I've pulled most of security away from the hotel and sent them directly to the airport. I've also taken all of the security people out of this building that was not in critical situations and sent them as support. International departures will be easy to cover. Sabrina and Nat will find it difficult to hide in a crowd. They're so striking that there will be few people who will not notice the Americans. If they're still here, we should be able to find them."
"Did you have any success in checking the manifest of the airlines?"
"No one with their names has flown out of Shanghai today, and they're certainly not on reservations anywhere. If, indeed, they're trying to escape by air, they're using forged credentials and flying under assumed names."
"Q, I'm going to have them killed."
"You had already decided to do that."
"I know, but I'm now as angry as you said Sabrina was. This is more than business. This is a vendetta. I'm going to see that they're both dead."
"Have you decided how you're going about it?"
"Yes. There are six people in the world euphemistically known as the Fraternity."
"I've never heard of such a group."
"Well, you wouldn't. These people are only known by large multi-national corporations. They make their living by solving problems for businesses who are unable to solve them themselves. Their fees are very high, but they're good. If their reputations are not exaggerated, you can count on them accomplishing their assigned tasks, whatever it is."
"Are they assassins?"
"No. They're not assassins. They're problem solvers. If it takes an assassination to solve the problem, however, I'm sure that none of them would rule that out."
"Which one of the six are you going to use?"
"I'm going to use all of them. I want to engage them to do nothing but spend their time finding Sabrina and Nat. I want those two to vanish from the face of the earth."
"How much are we willing to pay?"
"We will pay quite a bounty for finding Sabrina and Nat."
"What do you want me to offer them?"
"I think that it's better that you contact them, and have all six of them fly to Shanghai, and let me talk them personally."
"How do I know that I can get them to come?"
"Offer them $1 million each just to attend the meeting. After they hear my proposition, they can then determine whether or not they want to sign on for the task."
"How will I find the members of the Fraternity? Do you have their names and telephones?"
"No. No one has their names and telephones numbers."
"How do I get up with them then?"
"The group has an E-mail box on a data base in London. We'll describe the assignment in terms of how much we're willing to pay, and put it in the E-mail box. All six log on regularly from remote locations to see if they're interested in the work. After that, if any of them are interested, they'll contact you, and set up a meeting. Use your creative talents to think up a short ad, telling them that we have a high priority project, and will pay anyone $1 million to attend the meeting to have the assignment described."
"Is this really a fraternity? Is it an organized group?"
"It's organized in that they share an E-mail drop. It organized in that occasionally they'll meet somewhere and discuss assignments. It's not organized in that they work together on assignments. Each member of the Fraternity is an individual in their own right, and while they know each other well, they really are loners."
"When do you want to set up the meeting?"
"Two days from now."
"Do you think they'll be able to get away from their current assignments and get here within two days?"
"I would think so. Even those people who make millions of dollars per year will be intrigued about an assignment that offers $1 million to attend a one-hour meeting. They can smell that there will be a lot of money in this assignment, and will not want to miss the opportunity to take a crack at it. I'll give you the E-mail address. You set up the meeting. Place a notice on their little bulletin board, and we will see what happens."
"How much do you plan to offer them, Sing?"
"You just attend the meeting and find out. You might even be surprised yourself. I want Nat and Sabrina dead."
The telephone rang, and Sing noticed the light was illuminated, indicating that her secretary was calling. She pressed the button connecting her to the secretary and said, "Yes?"
"Xi’an is on the line."
"Good news and bad news."
"Tell me the good news. I'm not interested in bad news."
"Your idea worked beautifully. Our main frames did analyzed the deposits and withdrawals in every network with whom we're connected covering the previous thirty minutes, just as you predicted. An interesting pattern developed. We found a thousand accounts created and massive deposits of money placed in the accounts virtually at the same time. The computer log showed this large bulge of transactions, and it jumped off the screen at you. Within a matter of seconds, the money was transferred, zeroing each of the accounts, and those new account numbers were erased. This gave us the footprint to look for in subsequent searches. In less than ten seconds we found a matching footprint in a thousand different banks. The money was transferred in, transferred out, and the created accounts erased. We became very excited that we were able to track the thieves so easily. I will have to say again what I've said to you many times before, Dr. Pao. You're a genius, but more than a genius. Your ability to solve problems quickly puts you in a class by yourself. I don't know anyone else who could have conceived your approach to tracking the money in a brief moment."
"You're very kind with your praise, but you haven't finished your story."
"Knowing what footprints to look for, we continued to search networks, and found the same pattern repeated five times. We were confident the thieves would determine there was some limit in which the funds had to be shuffled. Five seemed to be the magic number. All of these transfers of funds throughout the world took less than a minute in total."
"Please go to the end of the story."
"I will, Dr. Pao, but now the bad news. After the money was transferred from the banks for the fifth time, it disappeared. All $500 billion, has disappeared. We can't find it in the banking system anywhere. We continue to comb the banking networks worldwide to see if there's any little scheme they could have conceived that would hide the money from us. You would think that $500 billion would be impossible to hide in the banking system, but nevertheless, we can't find it. It has vanished."
Sing let out a long, low sigh, and said, "Vanished."
"Absolutely, it has vanished. It's just as if the money had disappeared from the face of the earth."
"Well, keep looking, and if I have any ideas, I'll call you back."
Sing hung up the phone, and fell back in her chair. For the first time in her life, the wind was gone from her sails. Then adrenaline begins to pump energy back into her body as anger replaced her despair. Grim determination began to forge plans for future action. She was going to get her money back, and she was going to kill Sabrina and Nat, and she was going to enjoy doing both.
Monday, July 3, 1991
Shanghai, the Peoples Republic of China
"Q, is everything ready?"
"Yes, our guests have arrived and are in the office ready to come in for our meeting."
"How many are here?"
"Five. They're chatting and having a good time. It is obvious they're glad to see each other. This assignment has proven to be an unexpected pleasure. They usually get together once a year at the most.
"Bring them in and ask them to be seated. I'm going to step out into my office. I want them in place before we meet."
"Sing, you look absolutely lovely. I have never seen you look better. You've dressed more for a social event than for a business meeting."
"I have gone to a little extra effort. This meeting is very important to me, and I want to look my best. Let me slip into my office, and you can bring them on into the conference room."
Q went into the reception room, and informed the five visitors Dr. Pao was ready to see them and asked them to follow her into the conference room. All five were well-dressed. From the tailoring of their clothes, it would appear these five were board members at an exclusive country club. They each selected a chair from the eight surrounded the conference table. They continued their friendly conversation while Q excused herself to tell Sing all was ready for the meeting. Q preceded Sing through the door back into the conference room, and walked to the end of the conference table. When she was in position, Sing came through the door. When the five caught sight of her, their conversation stopped abruptly. Sing was as her radiant best, and her presence dominated the room. The five men were obviously appreciative of the picture she presented to them as Sing moved toward the end of the table to stand beside Q.
Q said, "Gentlemen, I would like to present to you Dr. Sing Pao, the president of Pao Banking Services and the Bank of Shanghai." Q continued, "Dr. Pao, I would like for you to meet Mr. Jan Wulf from Cape Town, South Africa."
He responded with a wide smile. "I'm delighted to know you, Dr. Pao."
Q went on, "I would like for you to meet Mr. Basel Shaffer from Zurich, Switzerland."
Mr. Shaffer said, "I'm delighted to know you, Dr. Pao."
Q looked at Dr. Speed, and said, "This is Dr. Timothy Speed from Birmingham, England. He lives on an estate near the Belfry."
Q then extended her arm toward Carlos Vincente, and said, "This is Mr. Carlos Vincente from Rio De Janeiro." He responded with a warm smile and greeting.
"And last, Mr. Kata Jaipur, from Delhi, India." He responded with his delight in meeting Dr. Pao, and concluded his comments with a small deferential nod of the head.
Dr. Pao then said, "Gentlemen, please be seated, and we shall discuss the reason for our coming together." The five all returned to their comfortably padded chairs surrounding the teakwood conference table.
"Gentlemen, you five were brought to my attention as being members of a very select group who solves problems that are often deemed to be impossible by others. Your fraternity has a remarkable record for success under improbable circumstances. The task I'm going to outline is simple in nature, but there's a short prologue I need to present to you so you will understand the great importance I'm placing upon the assignment. After we've discussed the matter to your satisfaction, I want to know how many of you are willing to work with me on this assignment."
There was a nodding of heads and comments, suggesting a high degree of interest in Dr. Pao's assignment.
"There are two people who I allowed to come into my confidence, which has proven to be foolish. I must tell you they have stolen $500 billion from me." There was an audible gasp from the five men around the table and short comments of incredulousness.
"The recovery of this money is very important to me. While I have lost a massive amount of money for the moment, my liquid worth is still in the multiple billion range. Sympathy is not what I need. I'm interested in your helping me reclaim the $500 billion, but beyond that, I want the two perpetrators of this crime dead. I know you do not consider yourselves professional assassins. I also know you consider yourselves solvers of problems. These two people are problems to me, and their deaths will be the problem's resolution. I'm placing a bounty on these two. I'm willing to execute a contract today with each of you for $100 million, employing you to give me your full time and services until the pair can be located and exterminated. You must understand, you can be working on no other project except the location and extermination of this pair. Whichever one is able to bring me proof of their demise will receive $1 billion paid into numbered bank accounts anywhere you should choose."
Sing paused and looked around the table, and said, "Gentlemen, do you understand the assignment? I'm willing to put $1.4 billion into this assignment. Does that give you some indication of its importance to me?"
The five were abnormally quiet. Dr. Speed spoke. "Dr. Pao, obviously, this is an assignment all of us will consider very seriously. The rewards are so great, we couldn't do otherwise. The killing of a couple could be accomplished for a minute fraction of the amount of money that you're posting as a reward. I think we would all like to know why such an assignment is worth that much money. We're used to danger, so that would not frighten us even if the rewards were much less. We understand the nature of our job and are ready to assume risks if they're needed."
Mr. Shaffer joined in, "Dr. Pao is it assumed we're going to have to employ a number of hired gunmen? The five of us are used to working alone. While I have employed people to help perform certain minor tasks, I have never taken on anything of the proportions that required a small army."
Dr. Speed commented, "You have startled me with the amount of money involved in this assignment. Please, Dr. Pao, tell us why the death of these two requires such a large bounty."
"I have no idea how difficult this task will be. I'm talking about an American couple with striking good looks. The woman is extraordinarily beautiful, and the man is equally handsome. They'll find it very difficult to hide anywhere in the world. There's no city, no matter how remote, that would shelter them for very long. Anywhere they go, they become the conversation piece of those who see them. I'm sure people of your skill will be able to find this pair. They're working alone and do not have hired body guards or gunmen to protect them. It is my judgment that when you find them, you will have no difficulty whatsoever in doing away with them. They're highly intelligent, and must be confronted with care. The reason I'm willing to pay the high bounty is that I want your undivided attention to this job, and I want the assignment accomplished quickly. These two are a threat to me personally, and I'll consider them as continuing to be dangerous to me until they're no longer part of the human race."
"Can you tell us the identity of the pair?"
"No. I will not tell you who they are until I have a firm commitment for your services."
"Do you want us to work as a team or individuals? We're used to working by ourselves."
"How you work is entirely up to you, but it was my assumption you would continue to work individually."
Mr. Wulf said, "I know I would be most comfortable working alone, and I think my colleagues would too. The $100 million is certainly more than sufficient to gain our undivided interest in the project. The $1 billion grand prize suggests most of us will be working twenty-four hours a day to see that your needs are satisfied."
Q broke in, and said, "Dr. Pao, I would like to ask some questions."
"Q, please do."
"Gentlemen, it's my understanding there are six members of your fraternity. You were each offered $1 million to attend this meeting. I'm puzzled as to why only five chose to attend."
Mr. Shaffer responded, "We're puzzled too. While we're not always privy to assignments made to our fellow fraternity members, we generally know if something really big is in the works. We occasionally confer, asking each other for advice."
Mr. Shaffer then looked at Dr. Speed. "Do you know of any assignment that would have kept her from coming?"
"No. I would have thought she would have been here." He looked at Dr. Speed. "What about you, Speed? Have any idea why she's not here?"
"None whatsoever, as competitive as she is, I know she would want to be part of the hunt."
Mr. Wulf looked at Dr. Pao, and said, "I'm sure the five of us can get the job done, but our sixth member is very accomplished, and you might want to extend the offer to her even though she wasn't able to attend the meeting today. I'm sure she must have a good and sufficient reason for not being here. I'm surprised she didn't call and let you know she would like to be included."
Mr. Shaffer spoke up. "We only received the drop on E-mail two days ago. Sometimes I'll go as long as a week without checking my E-mail box. It would be my guess she doesn't know the meeting is taking place." He then looked at Dr. Pao, and said, "She's very good. You might want to include her."
Dr. Pao looked back at Mr. Shaffer, and said, "I'm not making the hunt exclusive, and I'm willing to invest an additional $100 million. That's not upping the cost a great deal, but I'll not hold it open indefinitely. I suggest the five of you contact her and explain what the assignment is, and she can get in touch with me to tell me if she wants to participate."
All the five men nodded their heads in agreement, and indicated the sixth member of the Fraternity would be contacted and would probably want to be included in the assignment.
. Sing then said, "I'm ready for commitments." She looked directly at Mr. Wulf. He responded, "Count me in, Dr. Pao."
She then looked at Mr. Shaffer. "I'll enjoy working with you, Dr. Pao."
She looked at Mr. Vincente. "I can feel the excitement. The difference between $100 million and $1 billion makes the competitive juices flow. Dr. Pao. Certainly, count me in."
She looked at Dr. Speed. "Count on me I am ready to begin posthaste."
She then looked at Mr. Shaffer, and he responded, "Certainly dear lady, consider me now in your employ."
Sing then said, "I'm looking forward to working with you five gentlemen, and I'm also looking forward to working with the lady. For her to come so highly recommended from you, she must be very good." All five men slowly nodded agreement.
"What is her nationality?"
Mr. Wulf said, "She is American."
"Oh, we will have an American woman looking for an American woman. That should be interesting."
Dr. Speed said, "She is good, very good, and you can rest assured that the fact that she is a woman does not diminish her in any way. She is strong-minded, strong-willed and will do whatever it takes to a job done. The two of you will get along very well."
Sing then said, "What is her name?"
Mr. Vincente responded, "Sabrina. Sabrina Cabernet."
Sing's eyes hardened and she flashed a quick look at Q, and then looked straight back at the men around the table. "Gentlemen, Sabrina Cabernet is your quarry. I had no idea she was a member of the Fraternity."
Sing could detect the blood slightly receded from the five men's faces. They appeared somewhat paler, but recovered very nicely. Sing then said in a very business-like tone, "Does this change our contract for employment? Does your personal relationship with Sabrina Cabernet make you want to reconsider my offer?"
Dr. Speed spoke up. "Dr. Pao, Sabrina Cabernet is a very dear friend to all five of us. I'm deeply sorry she is the quarry for which you're offering the bounty. I can assure you of one thing, however, we're professionals. We're called upon to solve problems, and paid handsomely to do so. If Sabrina Cabernet is your problem, she too will be solved. I cannot speak for my colleagues, but I'll certainly speak for myself. You're my employer, and you can count on my undivided attention."
The other four chimed in, noting their agreement. Mr. Wulf then spoke. "Sabrina is not going to be an easy target. Whoever takes her out may very well have earned the prize you're offering."
Mr. Vincente spoke. "You mentioned a couple. Who is her partner? When you say 'couple', does that mean her partner is male?"
Dr. Pao responded, "Yes. He is male. His name is Nat Turner, and he is a professor at the University of North Carolina."
` Mr. Shaffer added, "Does he have a military background or connections that would make him difficult to corner?"
Sing responded, "I really don't know. His specialty is in literature and Romance languages, even though he has made himself a most efficient computer expert. I don't think you've a military mind with which to contend."
"I think the provisions of the contract are understood, Dr. Pao, and we're willing to start. Are there any instructions you would like to give?"
"None whatsoever, you're to use your own resources. If you need any technical assistance or guarded computers, I certainly stand ready to help you. We're the best in the world when it comes to computer interrogation. Please keep that in mind."
The men all got up from the table, and came around and shook hands with Sing and Q, and bade them good-by.
After the members of the Fraternity were gone, Q and Sing sat back down, and looked at each other. There was a long pause, and then Sing said, "This is interesting, very interesting. No wonder Sabrina was able to gain our confidence. She is a valued member of the Fraternity."
Q responded, "I'm impressed with the Fraternity. That was the most competent group of people I think I've ever been in a room with. They exuded confidence, integrity, and skill. Those people could make anything work."
"Sabrina is a member of the Fraternity. That's amazing."
"Do you think the personal relationship will dilute their effort?"
"I don't think so. It may actually heighten their involvement."
"Do you think they're so competitive they don't like her?"
"No. I think they like her very much, but the difference between $100 million and $1 billion would heighten anyone's competitive juices."
"I'm sure it would."
"None of these people need the money. They have tens of millions of dollars in bank accounts all over the world. They can live comfortably without being employed ever again. These men are members of the Fraternity because they love the thrill of the work. It doesn't make any difference how much money they have. They're always available because it allows them to match their skills against the world's. They like being the best, and the minute they drop from the Fraternity, they lose the edge that makes them such successful people. They want the $1 billion to prove they're the best. They're not earning money; they're competing for the grand prize. The death of Sabrina and Nat is incidental. It is the requirement for the grand prize. No, I think we've five very devoted employees."
July 3, 1991
Yak and Yeti
On the first leg of their escape Sabrina and Nat flew to Katmandu, Nepal. They selected the Hotel Yak and Yeti for their stay. They were now nestled in the Himalayas in a kingdom long known where the "mortals mingle with the deities." They had reserved the two premier suites, the Tibetian and Newari. Both have magnificent views of the highest mountains in the world. Sabrina chose the Newari suite and Nat gladly settled in to the Tibetian suite. When Sabrina was ushered in to the Newari suite she was greeted with lavish rugs and rich woodcarvings set along an inlaid brick wall. The sitting room overlooked an expansive terrace garden with a 180 degree view of the Himalayas. Her porch had a commanding view of the city and the tranquil grounds of the hotel.
Nat's first impression of the Tibetian suite was equally as grand. The furniture was pure Tibetian and had been hand-crafted in an age-old tradition. The walls were draped in bright silks. There were bold wood carvings and engraved copper plating. The living room opened to a full rooftop garden and he shared the same view with Sabrina of the Himalayas, the city and the beautiful hotel grounds.
The hotel was once one of three palaces built by Maharaja Bir Shumshere. The two lovers were now well ensconced in what is considered as one of the most fabulous hotels in the world.
After getting comfortably settled in their respective suites Sabrina came through the door connecting the sumptuous accommodations.
"Nat, we need to slow down, drop out of sight for a few days, and contemplate our options."
"You're the female. Tell me what you think Sing is going to do."
"She's going to retaliate. She's going to come after us with hammer and tongs."
Nat laughed, "Do you think we have the Tong to deal with?"
She smiled, "Most likely. And anybody else she can commandeer into this chase."
"This rules out eating Chinese any time soon, doesn't it?"
Sabrina laughed out loud, "Nat, be serious."
She continued, "How long do you think it took for Sing to have her computers up and running again?"
"We zeroed everything, but this action wouldn't slow down the installation of a new operating system. We do have a copy of all of her software. In the long run it will be more valuable to us than the money.
I presume the first thing the employees did in Xi’an was to confer with Sing for instructions. Her priority would be to get her computers functioning properly. She wouldn’t worry about us until everything is up and running again."
"Are we talking about minutes or hours?"
"Minutes, if we are talking about the operating system.
“They would have the operating system stored on backup computers that are not on-line. The operating system is too valuable to risk contamination. What we did to the operating system only proved to be a minor inconvenience. They may have lost ten minutes or so of operational time. No more. The actual transactions are another matter. The money is gone. We have it and she will be looking for it."
"Do you feel safe having all of the money in constant transition?"
Nat answered, “No. I don't feel safe, but I do think this is it is the best alternative we have until I have time to give it a landing place. If we had it anywhere detectable in the banking system, she would find the money. You can't rule anything out when you're dealing with someone as bright as Sing."
"What do you think she's been doing for the last three days?"
"Searching for the money, and making plans to deal with us."
"Do you think she'll want us alive to locate the money, or do you think we've now become expendable?"
Nat answered, "It's hard for me to know how she'll think. It's my guess her first reaction will be to want us dead. I think she assumes she can find the money if it's anywhere in the banking system. It's also reasonable to assume she would think there is no alternative other than for us to use existing financial channels. It might be tedious, but she will assume victory will ultimately be hers. Once she's discovered the money has actually disappeared from the banking systems, she may want to take a step back and think it over. The loss of face to an oriental is a serious offense. I imagine she's not going to be satisfied until we're properly punished, and this means death."
Sabrina forcefully said. "Good. I'm glad it is your conclusion."
"You sound damn chipper just to have had your death warrant signed."
"I am damned chipper."
"Are you going to share your mirth with me, or am I to be left wondering why you've lost your mind?"
Sabrina posed the question, "How long do you think Sing will look for us?"
Nat answered, "Until we're found."
"Do you mean for the rest of her life?"
Nat responded, "if it takes her that long, yes. I mean the rest of her life. The loss of face is very serious."
Sabrina again forcefully said "That is very good."
"What the hell do you mean, that is good?"
"Nat, you have very strong reasoning power."
"Thank you for the compliment, but I don't know what in the hell you talking about."
"I'm going to shorten the time she's going to look for us."
He smiled, "You're playing games and enjoying it. Knowing I have a death sentence hanging over my head, I'd like to share your mirth, if you don't mind."
"I would be delighted Mr. Wonderful, even though it does appear at times you are dense between the ears. I would consider firing you from this assignment if you did not periodically exhibit some physical prowess in my bed. I will continue you on probation," she said playfully.
Sabrina smiled a dazzling smile and continued. "You said she would look for us for the rest of her life. I said I'm going to shorten the length of time she's going to look for us. Now you draw the conclusion."
Nat quizzically said, "We're going to kill her.”
"We're not going to kill her? What then?"
Sabrina forcefully said "I'm going to kill her. I told you, leave Sing Pao to me. I had reason enough to kill her before, but from your own deductions, she's not going to be satisfied until we're dead. It now becomes a matter of self-preservation, not a matter of revenge. I'm now feeling much nobler."
"Killing her will not be easy."
"Nat, we're not hired to do easy jobs. We're employed to do difficult jobs no one else can do. We look for those jobs. If someone else could do them, the members of The Fraternity would not be employed. I don't care how difficult it's going to be to kill her. This is exactly what is going to happen. Dr. Sing Pao is history. It's not a matter of if; it's only a matter of when."
"You sound rather confident.
She responded, "If you don't have confidence you can't do the job."
"How are we going about it?"
"The opportunity will present itself. We must be prepared to take advantage of it."
Nat asked, "Do you want me to get some help in managing our new found wealth?"
Sabrina answered, "You and me don’t want to spend our time managing money. We have too many other things we will want to do. Contact Joe Hobbit and have him look after our investments. We can tell him exactly what we want done but he can look after the details for us. Pull him off of his other work, and put him on our payroll. He is the best. We are promising to take Sing Pao's place in the financial world, and we'll need Joe devoting full time to our operations. When we took Sing Pao out, it left a tremendous vacuum which must be filled quickly. If we don't do it right away, some economies could collapse. Joe is fully capable of handling the business end for us. Give him a blank check to hire whatever staff is necessary to put us in business right away.
After we handle these little items, we need to keep moving to avoid being tracked down by Sing and her assassins. A moving target is going to be much harder to hit. We're not going to have any relief until Sing Pao is totally out of the picture. We're going to need to be jumping all over the world like a water bug, but inexorably we're going to have to move back toward Shanghai or Xi’an before we get any relief."
"I take it you think we're going to have to go back in China? Nat asked."
"Yes. It looks that way. But, before going to be back we're going to have to have spread out Sing's forces to have any reasonable chance of getting close to her. If we can have her looking for us on five continents simultaneously, this will stretch her resources. If she discovers we are back in China within the next few days, she could concentrate her resources and it will be difficult for us to get to her blind side."
Nat asked seriously, “How are you going to bait the trap?"
Sabrina answered, “That is your department.”
"Good. This I was hoping you would say that. I think we should become very visible and attract a lot of attention. Then disappear and bob up several thousand miles away. I want us to repeat this little ploy several times."
Sabrina said, "We're going to play hopscotch."
"You are exactly right. We're going to play hopscotch. Modestly speaking, two people as attractive as we are, spending a lot of money will gain a great deal of attention. While we're being visible, let’s have a lot of fun. We can eat in the best restaurants, gamble in the casinos, and entertain friends, anything to gain visibility. Forty-eight hours later we'll disappear and bob up again at some other exotic location keeping her troops in hot pursuit."
Sabrina asked, "Don't you think forty-eight hours is a little long? It is quite a window of exposure."
“We can play that by ear. I don't think it's too long the first two or three times we pop up. However, we can’t keep doing it for very long, they might out-guess us. You don't have to be out-guessed but once. It is an easy way to end up dead. We have to keep the initiative"
Sabrina asked, "What are our alternatives if they do catch us?"
Nat spoke in a deadly serious tone, "its O.K. Corral time."
Sabrina raised her eye brows, Nat nodded, "A shoot-out?"
Nat nodded, "A shoot-out or something equivalent."
"You're suggesting from this moment on, we assume a combat mentality."
Nat answered, "Right. We're targets at this point. We don't know who our assailants are. It's reasonable to assume they'll be Chinese, but I'm not sure we can totally count on it. The cities we'll frequent should be cosmopolitan in nature. Orientals always stand out in occidental cities."
"Don't you think Sing will take this into consideration?"
"I think she will."
"Then it might be safe to assume our assailants will not be Oriental."
Nat answered, “I’m not sure we can assume anything. The only thing we can assume is we're ticketed for annihilation, and if we're going to survive long enough to take Sing Pao out, we're going to have to move very quickly."
"Don’t you think Sing will detect the pattern we're going to develop?"
"I'm counting on this."
"You want her and her assailants to start anticipating our next move?"
"Yes. By anticipating our next move, they themselves will start developing a pattern. When we see the pattern they're following, it will allow us to slowly wend our way back to the Peoples' Republic, leaving them false trails."
Sabrina asked, "How will we get back into the Peoples' Republic? It will not be an easy task."
Nat answered, "We still have our visas. They're good for six months."
Sabrina responded, "I know, but they're in our real names. This is not good news, is it?"
Nat spread his hands slightly, "We still have the element of surprise. Where do you think the last place Sing would ever expect us to show up again?"
She confirmed, "The Peoples' Republic."
He shook his head up and down, "Yes. We can go back in under assumed names and phony passport. When we arrive back in mainland China, we'll pull our real passports and visas and check through immigration. When they're checking for valid passports, they're not matching them to the manifest of the airplane. I would say there is a 99% chance there will be no record made of our re-entry under our real names."
Sabrina asked, "When do we get started?"
Nat answered, “What do you think?”
Sabrina said, "Let's stay here two or three more days. I think we're relatively safe, and it's going to take Sing at least a little time to get organized. In the meantime, I'll ask for some reinforcements. I have some friends who could be highly useful to us over the next few weeks."
She shook her head, "Yes. The Fraternity, I'm going to drop a note in their E-mail boxes and let them know their friend and compatriot is under a lot of pressure right now. I want to let them know I might need their help on short notice. Everyone needs friends from time to time, and this is the time I'm going to call on them."
Sabrina continued, "This gives us something of an edge right there. I'm sure Sing has never had to deal with a group like the Fraternity. They are formidable opposition."
She concluded, "They're not assassins, even though they all have notches on their guns. They are smart. They're the greatest allies we can have right now."
Nat asked, "Will we have to pay them?”
"No. We won't have to pay them. This is strictly professional courtesy. In a few minutes I'll get Sarah to crank us out a brief note describing our situation and alerting them to be ready should we need them."
Sabrina went on, "How many appearances do you think we need to make before we go back to China?"
Nat answered, "No more than a half-dozen."
"Have you decided where we'll go yet?"
"I want some rather wide gaps in between our appearances. For example, let's start with Amsterdam. Then follow with San Francisco, back to Paris, down to Cape Town, then Rio or Hong Kong. A stop in the Seychelles, then go underground, and surface in the Peoples' Republic."
Sabrina was puzzled, "Europe, South America, the Orient, South Africa, Indian Ocean. I don't see any pattern there."
"The idea is not to present a pattern. However, we do want them anticipating our moves. I'm hoping after starting in Europe and then staying away for a while, they may think in terms of our surfacing once again in Europe. If they are laying snares all over Europe while we're heading toward China our plan will have worked. We want them guessing and starting to move in anticipation of us. We obviously can’t afford for them to catch up with us. I have to avoid this, it will be fatal. We're flexible, however. Our itinerary is subject to change. We might not go to any of these cities. Our options are completely open. We will be leaving town on short notice and without luggage often."
Nat continued, "Actually, Sabrina, I think it is a good idea. We can we buy a new wardrobe after we arrive in each city, this would give us visibility. It also would make us more flexible. We would never be returning to our hotel, so we're not subject to a stake out under those conditions. I'm warming to the idea."
Sabrina agreed, "You're right. The idea has merits. Let me get busy with Sarah, and drop a note to my fellow Fraternity members, and then we can relax and find something to eat. We will fortify ourselves for two or three days, and then it will be a whirlwind right up to the finish.
Sabrina faced her computer. "Sarah, I want to send a message to some friends in London. They're in Lloyd's international server, and the E-mail address is Universal Fraternal Group. This is the box shared by all of us if we want to put something on the bulletin board."
"I'm ready, Madame."
"Thank you, Sarah."
Sabrina began to dictate, "Brothers, this is your sister. I'm laboring under a heavy burden, and assistance with the load may be needed in short order. It would much appreciate if you would check your individual boxes often within the next few weeks. This note is my down payment on a life insurance policy."
"Sarah, sign it: Yours in the bond, Sabrina."
"I have located the server and your message is now sent, Madame. Is there anything else?"
"Yes. I want you to check my personal box at Lloyd’s several times everyday, and report any replies to me immediately."
"Do you want to give me your password, Madame, or do you want me to use the algorithm and break the code?"
Sabrina laughed and said,” Break the code."
July 3, 1991
Hotel Yak and Yeti
Sabrina and Nat decided to have a late dinner in the exotic Naachghar restaurant. This impeccably restored former dining room of the palace has the appearance of a living museum. A unique feature of the dining room is a full theater stage with performances each evening for the hotel guests. These last meals they were sharing assumed a special meaning because they were about to begin a mad dash with their lives hanging in the balance. At Sabrina excused herself and requested that Nat have one more after-dinner drink before returning to his suite.
Nat ordered another drink as directed by Sabrina and focused his attention on the show which was progressing toward its conclusion. When the applause died Nat proceeded to his suite. When he opened the door the room was in a shadowy darkness. As his eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness there appeared to be at least 100 candles perfectly placed to enhance the furnishings of the room. Nat had never experienced a room which had come totally alive in candle light. This bordered on a spiritual experience. Beyond the darkness but unseen by Nat were the mightiest mountains in the world. This was a moment to be savored for a life time.
He detected a movement in the darkness coming from the door to Sabrina's suite. He turned his head toward the direction of the movement and he eyed Sabrina dressed in a full length sable coat sweeping the floor of the room. This image of Sabrina took Nat back to their first meeting at the Cabana on Dafuskie Island. Nat had just enough to drink to have developed a special sensitivity to the occasion. It literally was as if Nat were dreaming.
Sabrina floated toward him on unseen feet. Nat was frozen. When she reached him she opened the large fur and engulfed Nat closing the fur behind him. They were now wrapped together in a huge fur cocoon and Sabrina began to lead him in a dance featuring large slow circles. It became evident to Nat that Sabrina was totally without protective garments of any kind other than the large fur coat which had them both captured within its grasp.
Nat now became aware of the sensuous oriental music drifting across the room from some unseen and undetectable source. As one melody drifted into the next the dance had led them to a large Magnum of Champagne in a self supporting stand placed near the fireplace. The hotel staff had kindled a large roaring fire for Sabrina fueled by a scented wood Nat could not place. In front of the fireplace were four more sable coats strewn on the floor looking as if they were a single skin of some large Asiatic bear. The luxurious sable was inviting the two lovers to recline. Sabrina released Nat for a moment and let the fur drop casually open confirming Nat's earlier discovery that Sabrina was without other garments of any kind. Sabrina in her dramatic way poured two flutes of Champagne, handed Nat his, and melted like quicksilver to the floor, settling in the center of the tactically placed furs. Nat was somewhat less graceful but immediately joined Sabrina. They looked deeply in to each other’s eyes without a word being passed.
Nat could detect the subtle shifting of mood so characteristic of Sabrina. It appeared to Nat that Sabrina was being transported ethereally to planets beyond our solar system. There were times Nat had playfully speculated if Sabrina truly were from a planet revolving around the center star in the belt of Orion. She had the ability to shake off the bonds of earth.
Delicate hands virtually unseen to Nat were making his garments dissolve from his body. Nat joined Sabri