Part 5 of Live on the Left Side of the Fast Lane

Part V of Life on the Left Side of the Fast Lane.
By Reynold Conger (Copyright 2010 by RJC)

Usman has been kidnapped. Ron cooper is in Pakistan as a consulting engineer, but his real mission is to help find Usman. While in the factory discussing quality control information with Cedric, the man who Amna loves, Ron asks Cedric if the cigarette he is smoking is a smuggled brand. Cedric answers, “Yes, and to save you the trouble of asking, anyone can buy them through one of the salesmen who work for Mohammed Ali, the man who Usman is afraid will marry his sister, Amna.”

Part V
(As a cover for his mission to find Usman, Ron Cooper has been reviewing records at Kubla Kahn’s factory as though he were simply doing industrial consulting.)

Ron could not believe his ears so he confirmed the information by asking, “Cedric, did you say Usman is worried about an impending marriage of Amna to Mohammed Ali, the cigarette smuggler?”

“Yes, Usman doesn’t want his sister to be unhappy, and sometimes I wish I had the opportunity to slit Mohammed’s throat. I wouldn’t mind so much to watch Amna marry someone else if he were only a decent man.”

“Let’s get back to business, Cedric. What do you think about this data?”

“Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed. It looks like we made an entire run of defective product and no one took any action. In fact, the entire run got shipped.”

Ron marked a section of the test log with his pencil. “Perhaps you should analyze this data statistically.”

“If you think it would help.”

“Only an analysis of the data will tell for sure, but it looks to me like your tester recorded false data. He may not even have run the tests.” Ron scratched his head, “Strange though, usually when a tester falsifies data he makes sure the data is within limits. Here it appears that the tester intentionally recorded data that is well below the reject limit.”

“I’ll get on it right away, Mr. Cooper.”

“By the way, who was the customer?”

“It says right here on the manufacturing order. Why, it’s Ali Baba Ltd. That’s a company owned by Mohammed Ali’s father.”

“Just a gut feeling, Cedric. I’ll bet you find trouble. If you do, go directly to Mr. Kahn with your findings.”

Cedric gathered up his papers and rushed off. Ron strolled through the plant to inspect the production process. Eventually he ran across Kubla Kahn. Ron and Kubla walked slowly down the production line discussing the current run.

“Your scheduling is making it possible for the production line to run more efficiently than ever,” said Ron.

“Yes, that’s all due to Usman’s computers,” replied Kubla Kahn with pride.

“He seems to have a good handle on the administrative end of the business.”

“Yes, now if he would only take the time to learn the nuts and bolts of the business.”

“Fortunately you have good engineers to advise you. You know, you could do worse than to have one of them as a son-in-law. Several of them have the potential for leadership, but it seems to me that Cedric Shaw is particularly clever. Marry Amna off to one of them. Then groom your son-in-law to take over the production side of the business. Upon your retirement, Usman becomes CEO. He would handle finance and administration. The son-in-law would become vice president of manufacturing and keep the plant running smoothly.”

The businessman scowled at Ron and said, “I see Amna has been talking with you. Come into my office.”

Once inside the office, Kubla said, “Our tradition of arranged marriages had many advantages, but it breaks my heart to give my daughter in marriage to a man she detests.”

“I think I understand. You want only the best for your daughter.”

“Of course, and perhaps Amna has told you she hates him.” He sighed. “I wish I could call this entire fiasco off and spare Amna the pain, but I cannot. It would ruin me and the company. It would throw my wife and all of my children into penury.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Blackmail, Mr. Cooper, and Amna’s hand is the price to keep mouths shut. Unfortunately Amna’s happiness must be sacrificed.”

“Could this have anything to do with Usman’s disappearance?”

“I don’t see how. I have already agreed to this despicable act. They need no more leverage. Besides, they have said nothing about Usman.”

“I cannot help you unless you tell me how you are being blackmailed.”

“Mr. Cooper, there is no way you can help me. It is in the hand of Allah.” Kubla sighed and continued, “Mohammed Ali’s father is one of my larger customers. A few months ago we shipped components to him, made to military specifications. His company used these components to fulfill a government contract.”

“And now Mr. Ali is now claiming those components did not meet specification.”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Standard procedure. As the prime contractor, he is responsible to ride herd on your quality.”

“I offered to make another run to replace the shipment, but he said he had a deadline to meet. He has a certificate of compliance from us. He showed the certificate to the inspector, and I suppose bribed the inspector to sample only boxes that they knew would contain products that could pass the testing.”

“He bribed the inspector?”

“Most likely. It happens frequently. Now he is threatening to expose my alleged fraud. All he has to do is claim that I shipped him defective components under a fraudulent certificate of compliance, and I will loose all my business with the government and all government contractors. That alone could bankrupt me, but in addition, think what it will do to the company’s reputation.”

“Yes, that would be serious.”

“He could also sue me for anything else I might have left.”

“Which would complete your ruination.”

Mr. Kahn nodded. “Of course, he magnanimously offered to keep everything quiet if only I marry my beautiful daughter off to his ugly toad of a son. I said I’d shoot myself before I would force Amna to marry Mohammed, but he only reminded me that suicide would be construed as an admission of guilt. All I can think to do is stall.”

Just then the secretary knocked and entered. He said, “Mr. Kahn, Mr. Ali’s solicitor is on the phone. He has the marriage contract complete except for the date of the wedding.”

“I’ll talk to him,” said Mr. Kahn reaching for the phone. “Hello, this is Kahn. . . . I told you I must consult with my wife. . . . No, she has not made up her mind. . . . You can’t do that. . . . I’ll come to your office straight away.”

(to be continued)

Do not hesitate to look at previous installments. Part 6 will be posted in three weeks.


About Reynold Conger

Reynold Conger is a retired scientist, engineer and teacher. Now writing fiction. His books are CHASED ACROSS AUSTRALIA, MY KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR and REDUCING MEDICAL COSTS (AT THE COST OF HEALTH). He has also started a series of novelas called THE RICHARD TRACY SERIES. Residence: New Mexico, USA Hobbies: gardening, animals and running. website
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