Usman, Kubla Kahn’s son, has been kidnapped. Ron Cooper pays a visit to Mr. Kahn’s factory as a consulting engineer, but his real mission is to help find Usman. We also learn that Mr. Kahn is being blackmailed over product quality, the price of silence is the hand of Amna Kahn in marriage to a man she detests. Because the blackmailer is the father of the prospective groom, Ron suggests to Cedric, the quality control director. to analyze certain testing records.
In the last episode, Ron learns from Mr. Kahn the seriousness of the blackmail and how much he regrets having to marry his beautiful daughter to this ugly toad of a man. Suddenly the phone rings. The lawyer wants Mr. Kahn to set a date so he can finish the marriage contract.
(Usman is missing and Kubla Kahn has been blackmailed into marrying Amna to a man she hates. Ron has a big investigation on his hands.)
The next morning, Ron went straight to Cedric’s office. Cedric sat at his computer. His office was filled with quality control records and printouts from his computer.
“Mr. Cooper, you won’t believe what I’ve found,” said the quality control engineer jumping up to shake Ron’s hand.
“Not much surprises me any more. I’ve seen testers fill in the data for all of the tests on their shift and then sleep the next 7 hours.”
“This is worse than that. The histogram shows a spike. This could be used in the textbooks as an example of falsified data. For two shifts each day, the tests meet the specifications and the testing error is the same as usual. Every day on the 3rd shift, nothing met the quality standard, but the amount of testing error is minimal, less than one fourth the usual amount. The third shift tester is the culprit.”
“Excellent, Cedric. Have you informed Mr. Kahn?”
“No, he’s not in yet. I left a message with his secretary to call me the moment Mr. Kahn appears. By the way, the latest rumor is that Amna’s engagement was announced formally last night. They marry next month.”
“Amna will be unhappy.”
“Yes, but at least she will not be poor.”
“Cedric, if your third shift tester recorded data at reject levels, why didn’t anyone take action?”
“That is what makes this so unbelievable. The third shift foreman insists that there was nothing wrong with the quality. In fact he was so proud of the quality his crew was turning out, that one night he unlocked the front office and made a Xerox copy of the test log.” Cedric brandished a piece of paper. “This is supposed to be a copy of that page of the test log.” He pointed at an open file on his desk. The copy differed greatly from the original.
“The tester kept two test logs. What does he have to say for himself?”
“He quit 10 days after the shipment left the factory.”
“Most interesting. By the way, Cedric. I don’t see your ash tray. I hope it isn’t under one of these sheets of paper. I wouldn’t want all of this hard work to go up in smoke.”
“I have no ash trays in my office any more. I threw all of them out first thing this morning.”
“Does that mean you are trying to quit cigarettes?”
“I have quit cold duck.”
“Isn’t that the term Americans use when they smoke one last cigarette and throw the rest of the pack away forever?”
Ron laughed, “You mean to say you have quit smoking cold turkey.”
“Yes, customs agents raided Mohammed Ali’s cigarette warehouse yesterday. Mohammed Ali avoided arrest, but all of the cigarettes were confiscated. This morning I had to buy a legal brand. I can’t really afford even the cheapest, but I bought a pack and smoked the entire pack on the way to work. I can’t afford that, so I decided to quit — cold turkey like a man.”
“Good, I’ll be praying for you.”
“A cigarette would taste good right now, but I am determined. Besides, this investigation,” Cedric waved a hand over the desk full of papers, “is helping keep my mind off of tobacco.”
“That will help.”
“I can’t imagine why any one would do a thing like this, but it is fascinating the way it has unraveled. It will keep me busy all day today or longer.”
“Cedric, make sure you get the credit for discovering this fraud.”
“But you told me where to look.”
Ron made a depreciating gesture. “I only made a suggestion. You did all the hard work. You deserve the credit.
“I will brief Mr. Kahn as soon as he gets in.”
“I presume you know who this tester was.”
“I only have a name. Mr. Kahn’s secretary is pulling his personnel file, and I have taken the liberty of asking the chief of security to track him down.”
“Very bold and decisive, Cedric.”
“Yes, it oversteps my authority, but in Mr. Kahn’s absence. . . .” Cedric shrugged his shoulders and reflexively reached toward the pocket where he usually kept his cigarettes. “something has to be done. I am sure he will back my decision.”
“I’m sure he will, and Amna will be pleased to hear you’ve stopped smoking.”
“Mr. Cooper, will you please be careful what you say. Do you realize what relatives can do under Moslem law to a woman who is suspected of improper conduct? I can not let Amna be put in danger just because we enjoyed a few flirtatious moments at the company party.”
“I’m sorry Cedric. I will make sure I say nothing that could suggest anything improper on Amna’s part.”
“Amna’s marriage to Mohammed Ali worries me. I am sure he is looking forward to enjoying her — uh — charms, but he is also the type who would enjoy punishing a woman if he were to become angry with her.”
That evening Ron had been invited to have supper with the Kahn family again. Kubla Kahn was in the car when Zuftikhar picked Ron up.
A very somber Mr. Kahn asked, “Did you advise Cedric Shaw to involve security in this test data problem?”
“No, he took that action independently. He told me it was indicated by the gravity of the situation.”
“I like his decisiveness. If his suspicions are right, it might salvage our reputation, but if Cedric is wrong. . . .”
After supper Amna again walked in the garden with Ron. As she hugged Ron in the shadows she said, “Now that I am an engaged woman, Papa says I must be especially careful about being seen kissing you, but I need you to comfort me tonight. I will treasure your hugs and kisses as I endure life with Mohammed. Saturday may be our only chance to look for Usman. Zuftikhar will bring you here for breakfast. Be prepared to spend the entire day with me.”
(to be continued)