"Fated and Fateless" Excerpt Part 2
|Alice Poon||Mar 15, 2014|
Here’s Excerpt Part 2 (continued from Part 1):
[Diana had witnessed the amazing growth of Sun Tai Land on her frequent trips back to Hong Kong while studying in England – the number of staff shot up from a couple of dozens in 1966 to a couple of hundreds now (1972). The company structure had evolved from a simple single-tier one into a multi-department, many-layered management hierarchy led by her father. Her knowledge of the company’s operations, if perfunctory, had come from her attendance as an observer at board and management meetings during all her school vacations.
During those company visits, she couldn’t help noticing that her father had regular secret meetings with Detective Ngan in his private conference room, which was annexed to his large and lavishly furnished office, where valuable Chinese paintings by Cheung Tai Chin were randomly hung. She was going to find out all about the meetings from Ms. Yeung some day.
As she lay reposed on the gold-trimmed velvety couch by the sheer-curtained French windows looking out onto the terrace, she was thinking that it was high time to take the company public and use the public offer proceeds for further expansion,. She must set up a meeting with John Woo, Sun Tai Land’s legal adviser, and Ewen Saunders, the investment banker. She was not going to tell her father yet what was on her mind until she had all the information she needed. She must be able to impress him with her first presentation. But before that important meeting, she must first have a chance to hold an internal meeting with all the department heads to get an update on the company’s business outlook and financial situation. The matter was now of top priority as John Woo had told her that the KHS Group was also planning to go public.
On that thought, she rose from the couch and walked across the chandelier-lit living room to the fireplace, above which hung a huge, three-panel mirror. She picked up the antique phone on the side table while admiring her own reflection in the mirror, and dialed Ms. Yeung’s number. Ms. Yeung had been her father’s private secretary for as long as she could recall and knew the company’s staff like the back of her hand. Diana was aware of the rumor that had been going round the office in recent years: that her father had taken Ms. Yeung as his mistress and had bought her a high-end apartment in Happy Valley. For this reason, no one from the office dared to cross her and everybody was trying to please her. If there was anyone apart from Mrs. Lee, to whom Ms. Yeung would care to show some courtesy, it was Diana. Diana had once casually dropped the question on her mother, but she had shrugged it off in an unaffected manner without saying anything. She had thought it best to feign ignorance in front of her father.
“Hello Ms. Yeung, how have you been?”
“Hello Diana, it’s good to hear your voice again. When did you arrive? Did you have a pleasant trip?”
“I arrived on Saturday. The trip was OK – you know, as usual, I slept during the flight. Look, I was wondering if you could set up a meeting of department heads for 10 o’clock on Tuesday, if my dad doesn’t have anything on.”
“Let me just check his diary – yes, he’s free. I’ll have the meeting set up right away. Is there anything else?”
“Please tell my dad that the purpose of the meeting is to let me catch up. Oh, and please ask the chief accountant to let me have copies of the audited accounts for the last five years – have them on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Another thing is that I want you to place an ad in the English papers for two personal assistants for me. Also, ask the fung shui master Mr. Yau to come by the office tomorrow. That’ll be all for now.” Mr. Lee had hired Mr. Yau as the company’s fung shui master on a retainer basis right after that house-warming dinner in 1970.
“Yes, I’ll get on to it. See you tomorrow morning, Diana. Welcome back.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Edward hauling himself up agilely from the water. His lanky torso and tight butt, dripping wet and exuding life in the bright sunlight, looked even more sensual. As his elder sister, she felt she had a duty to watch over him, not letting him fall prey to those tramps hovering around him. He was always such a naïve and warm-hearted big boy. It was a good thing he didn’t want to go into the business world – he was just not cut out for it.
She walked out to the sunlit terrace and picked up a white thick towel from one of the wooden poolside benches to hand to him.
“I’m going shopping at Lane Crawford’s this afternoon. Want to come along?” she was hoping he’d say yes.
“Umm, I don’t think so – there’s some reading that I have to catch up on. Why don’t you ask Mother to go with you?”
Masking her disappointment, she said in a teasing tone: “What a bookworm you are! Mother has her mahjong party to go to. She wouldn’t be a great help anyway. Don’t worry, I don’t mind shopping alone.”]