The Tiger's Den, Part Two

Spanning across decades, from West to East, Natasha´s life is intricately woven with corruption and deceit. Is she strong enough discern who is there to help her and who is out to destroy her?

In 2010, Natasha had been working for her father for 10 years.  Having had less responsibility than other employees, she knew that this would change on her 30th birthday.  Entering into a large room with a black and white colour scheme, a high ceiling and the kind of compressed silence where you know you cannot be disturbed by anyone who does not have access.  Natasha greets the employees dressed in smart tailored suits and a gentle air of confidence in the way they moved, almost hovering across the soft, white carpeted floor.  Black leather sofas and Eames chairs were arranged in the open plan room.  A mature man with white blonde hair and deep smile lines defining his face walks up to Natasha and embraces her warmly.  They sit down facing each other on leather chairs.

"How was your trip"? He asked smiling

"Long.  Glad I am back".

He smiles and calls over a tall woman, with long black hair and gentle in movement and manner.  Natasha looks up without smiling.

"We´re glad you're back too" He sighs looking up to the elegant woman who gives him a leather bound folder.  "Thank you Xiao".  He hands it to Natasha. "Take your time to read it.  Your father is less impatient these days". He laughs slightly.

Natasha slumps further down into the chair and her father puts his hand calmly on her shoulder.

"You knew this was coming, it was only a matter of time."

Somewhere across China a pot-bellied man with greying sides lies in a long, black marbled bath.  On the TV screen in front of him, there is an image of Natasha and her father going through the tables and figures on papers in the leather bound folder.  Upon seeing this, he sits upright, splashing water out of each side of the bath and reaches for his jet black mobile.

Back in the company, Natasha and her father continue to look through the folder. A mobile rings on the other side of the room out of hearing shot, and a dark suited man with ebony hair answers quickly. 

"We´re ready, alert them".  Says the pot-bellied man, standing naked and dripping with water.
 "Yes" he confirms watching Natasha and her father oblivious to his actions.

There are rows and rows of young Chinese men and women, not long departed from their teenage years sitting facing each other, staring into computer screens, the only electronic object between their collective obedient eyes.  Suddenly a blue beacon of light switches on an alarm to a young woman who is ready to receive it.  There is a flurry of low, whispered chatter as the crowd become aware of  what this means.  People stand up and gasp.  The girl who receives it after an initial shock however, goes back to her computer screen and sees the numbers flashing up in a linear fashion.  Account one: 1 million.  Account two: 2.5 million with access codes that follow them.  She quickly computes the numbers and access codes and starts building them into a mathmatical model. 

The meeting room's automatic doors slide open.  The pot-bellied man, Chin ushers in Xiyan and she scuttles in, clutching a stack on papers, her eyes in a downward gaze.  Chin gestures for her to lay them down upon a dark, wooden table to which she obeys immediately.  Chin is speaking loudly to a younger and older man who are listening intently.

"So if we can "advise" her, so to speak, in future markets, you know, those "sustainable green" ones, the ones that look like they are of benefit to society, blah, blah, then we will be able to emphasise how more and more investments are needed for it to run"  Chin points to the mathematical model on the papers from Xiyan.  Xiyan on Chin's hand gesture lays down an electronic tablet for him on the table which he picks up, turning it to show the screen to his captive audience of two.

"So you see here the investment escalates into future markets that then seemingly evaporate because of course the volatility of the market, and we cannot predict what is going to happen can we now"? His voice turning sarcastic as his lips curl into a sneaky smirk.  He gestures to the model being displayed on the tablet that builds and builds over a period of time only to implode in on its canon-like development, like into a black hole.  "She doesn't know much about futures and swaps and so naturally she´ll blame herself for not being more interested in it before now and leaving that to her precious daddy.  By that time the investments would have made it safely into our hands without a trace."  Chin leans back into his black leather chair with smug satisfaction. 

"Just one question"  The younger man of the audience asks with the older glaring at him. He continues ignoring warnings "How are we going to get her to trust us"?

"Oh, that's easy" Chin smiles leaning forward towards him "Have you ever seen a woman of 30 in love"?

At a large house in the mountains, a bar is stocked full of drinks and a bar tender is serving cocktails to an ever enlivening crowd.  Natasha sits at the end of the bar alone, sipping a cool gin and tonic quietly and watching the action.  A couple of friends wave over to her as they are sitting in a huddle of white leather sofas and bodies relaxing and laughing with each other.  Natasha remains sitting on her bar stool, just smiling at them enjoying themselves.  She turns away from them shaking her head a little at their boisterous behaviour and finishes off her drink.

"May I buy you another"?

Natasha jumps a little and gasps looking up.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

Natasha matches his smile, noticing that his eyes are black and as deep as ebony.  She looks away again remembering the question.

"Thanks. That would be nice." 

By just an eye signal the bar tender has already brought her another gin and tonic. 

"Oh, Thanks." Natasha takes her arms off the bar and cradles the drink with her pianist like fingers.

"Paul Smith" he holds out his hand to which Natasha shakes gracefully.

"That´s an unusual name" she says sardonically.

"Yes, my parents gave out all the Tsar names to my siblings."

Natasha smiled genuinely amused, yet a little taken aback that he'd used a Russian reference.  She eyed him sideways.

"Natasha.  Yes, well, I guess The West's domination tends to stretch even to name ID these days umm?  Personally I prefer it when people keep their name."

"Even if it is difficult to pronounce"? He laughs querying

"Yes, even if it is difficult to pronounce" She responds, taking a gulp of her drink.
"Xiang Yu".

"Oh"! Natasha almost chokes on her drink.  "Well, now I can understand why you changed your name"

"Yes, it's not the most subtle gesture of my parents to name me after one of the most widely know military figures of the Qin Dynasty." 

Natasha noticed his easy going confidence especially against her tension.

"So what do you do"? She asked in a faux flippant way.

"I´m a social investor in Chin corps.  I find social businesses in which investors can help to grow".

"Ah yes, like a broker". Natasha turns back to her gin

"Yes, sort of, but it is a lot more than that. I am really able to get involved in these projects, where all the money is going, making sure it filters to all the right places, instead of just landing in the pockets of the social enterprises themselves."

"I see". Natasha swivels on her leather stool to face him.

"I have a lot to thank Chin for." Paul continues looking into his glass "He´s been a real mentor for showing me the difference between the real villains and those wanting to protect society, sometimes I couldn't see it, I was too naive.  Do you know what I mean"? 

He raises his head and narrows his eyes looking into Natasha's now widening, dilated pupils.