Tag Archives: Taiwan

New Years Evil – Part 2

Lin-Xi and I had barely started on the snacks when the MC of the evening, the company’s Vice President of Marketing Mr. Zhou, took to the stage and announced that dinner would now be served. We drifted back toward to our seats, stopping to say hello to a few of my other students, and then settled in at our table.

As it turned out, the wise person who’d arranged the seating had carefully picked employees who had worked overseas to sit at our table, so with the exception of two spouses, almost all of the ten people seated there spoke English. I suspected I had Melody to thank for this, although I couldn’t be sure. I resolved to thank her later.

As it was, Lin-Xi was seated next to Mr. Lai, one of the marketing people, and the two of them got to talking about something in Mandarin that I couldn’t follow. However, since Mr. Lai was pretty funny, and Lin-Xi was laughing at something, I gave thanks for small miracles and was just happy that she was enjoying herself.

I, meanwhile, was next to Franci Hung, one of the receptionists who had lived in the UK for a while in her long-past student days. She’d been there for my first classes at the company, but had soon dropped out citing family issues with needing to pick up her kids from their after-school classes. She was a cheerful enough woman, and liked to talk about her kids, so I just mostly listened while she caught me up on their progression.

We’d only been there a few minutes when I heard Mr. Lai say something excitedly to the other table members in Mandarin, and all conversation suddenly stopped. I followed their gaze to Lin-Xi, who looked uncomfortable.

“Mark, you didn’t tell us your girlfriend was a police officer.” Mr. Lai said, excited. “You said she was a government worker!”

I shrugged. “She is. I just didn’t say what department.”

In truth, I can be a bit of a private person, so I don’t usually mention to classes what Lin-Xi does unless specifically asked. It usually had results like this, so I’d learned fast just to keep it quiet.

After that, the others began asking Lin-Xi questions in Chinese, but since I couldn’t follow I went back to chatting with Franci. Soon the first of many courses of dinner arrived, a big plate of steamed Oysters were placed in the middle turntable for us to share and we all began our slow dinner.


After the last course had been served, the MC took the stage again and announced that it was now time for the games to begin. He invited the president of the company to join him up at the microphone, and the jovial, red-faced leader began to speak to his workers.

The speech was in Chinese, but thanks to Mr. Lai’s translation, I was able to follow along. Then, after thanking everyone for coming and their hard work, he announced that it was time to start the game and directed everyone to put on their buttons. After that he directed all of us to stand up, with the men lining up on the one side of the dance floor and the women lining up facing them across the floor.

“In our game, Linna and Bess,” he explained, “the two young girls are lead to their destiny by magic heart butterflies, and so tonight butterflies will lead us as well.” Then the lights on the stage turned off, and now we could see that the President’s badge glowed in the dark. It wasn’t very bright because most of the lights were still on, but you could faintly see the image of a golden butterfly on his chest.

“Each magic heart butterfly has only one perfect partner out there, and when the lights go out, your job will be to find your partner in the dark while the music plays. When the music is done playing, those who have found their partner will be eligible for one of the prizes from the stage, including a vacation in Hawaii and a trip to Japan.”

When the now excited employees finished clapping at that, he continued.

“Please be careful, and try not to be too friendly to the people you meet in the dark. You never know, they might be your boss!”

Then, as the employees laughed, he hopped down off of the stage and made his way over to the men’s side. As he did, I looked carefully for Lin-Xi, and plotted my way to her. There was no doubt she was my match, and I needed a new TV! Although, I wouldn’t complain about Hawaiian vacation either.

At a signal from the company president, the MC raised his hand and began counting down. When he hit zero, the lights were switched off and the sound of a trendy Taiwanese pop-song filled the air. The room was almost completely black and a line of glowing butterflies of many different colors, shapes and sizes had appeared on the other side of the dance floor.

I looked down at my badge to see a half-yellow, half-orange butterfly with spiral-patterned wings, while all around me people rushed into the dance floor like a swarm of bees desperately trying to find their special flowers. Not wanting to be left behind, I desperately began to search through hot darkness of the now-crowded dance-floor.

It was surprisingly hard, the many people moving and turning kept me from being able to see the butterflies, and several times I saw ones similar to mine that turned out to be different on closer inspection. Once, I even chanced upon one that I thought was Lin-Xi, only to see it was pure yellow colored instead of my mixed design. Then an even stranger thing happened- the golden butterfly, which should have been a static badge on someone’s chest, suddenly began to flap its wings and flew upward a short distance before vanishing completely.

Had my eyes been playing tricks? I wondered. Or, maybe I saw someone grab their badge and hold it high into the air so that their partner could see it? But, I was certain I had seen it move- seen the wings flap in the air.
Regardless, that didn’t seem like a bad strategy, and since there was no rules against it, I snatched the button from my chest and held it high, staying in one place and turning slowly around. The last verses of the pop song were playing, and I prayed that Lin-Xi would be able to see it in time.

Then, just as the music began to fade, I felt someone grab my shoulder.

“Mark, is that you?” I heard a familiar voice say.

I turned to face her, seeing her silhouette as my eyes had begun to adjust to the dark. Bringing down my butterfly, I tapped mine against her matching one.

“They match,” I said, and then a thought struck me and I leaned in for a kiss…


On came the lights, and I found myself face-to-face with a surprised Lin-Xi.

She reddened. “What are you doing?”

Despite her unconventional nature, Lin-Xi was actually very oldschool conservative Taiwanese at heart, and didn’t go in for public displays of affection. So, while she certainly didn’t mind kissing in private, doing so in public was one of our long-running disagreements.

“C’mon, it was dark. Nobody could see us…”

Lin-Xi blushed even more, which looked even cuter, and I was about to say something when suddenly there was a blood-curdling scream from nearby.

We both spun and looked. There, a few meters away, President Lin lay on his back on the floor in a pool of blood, his chest heaving. Standing above him was Melody Xie, the front of her orange and yellow dress streaked in blood and a bloody steak knife in her hand. She was staring down at him in horror, making half-gasping noises that sounded like sobs.

It was a surreal scene frozen in time, and then reality clawed its way back into the room. Lin-Xi was the first to move, her training kicking in as she bolted from next to me over to where Melody was standing over the body.

They were speaking Mandarin, so I could only guess what they were saying, but some things are universal enough. Lin-Xi told everyone to get back, and told Melody to step away from the body and put down the knife. It seemed like Melody was in shock, and it took a few tries to get her to listen, but once she started to come out of it she just dropped the knife and then fell to her knees crying.

As Lin-Xi rounded the body, she pointed at various people in the crowd and called out orders, telling them what she wanted them to do- ambulance, police, towels, get people back. Then she pointed at me and motioned for me to come over.

“My phone, get it.” She said, standing over the fallen Melody.

I did as she asked, rushing back to the table and grabbing her mobile phone from her jacket. As I was returning, I heard another cry, and saw the MC and a group of executives holding Mrs. Lin, the president’s wife, who looked like she’d just fainted. I shook my head, poor woman.

Then I rushed the phone to Lin-Xi, who already had several people trying to stop the bleeding with towels. She took it and dialed, had a quick conversation, and then hung up and slipped it into her belt.

“I’ve got a team on the way,” she said. “They’ll be here in a few minutes.” Then she gestured at the knot of men who were caring for Mrs. Lin. “Can you call those company bosses over, I want to speak with them.”

“Sure,” I said, but as I turned to go over to them I heard a crunching noise and felt something underneath my shoe. Looking down, I saw a small screw on the ground and reached down to pick it up. Black, with a rounded top and perhaps a centimeter long, I thought maybe it had fallen from someone’s camera. Not wanting anyone to slip on it, I pocketed it and went over to find the MC.

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New Years Evil – Part 1


(Modern, Mystery, PG)

“Why do I have to do this?”

“Because,” I said, straightening my tie. “The Company President asked me to bring you. And, it’s good relations.” I glanced at the elevator panel- we were almost to the top floor. “Besides, you look great.”

Lin-Xi didn’t return my smile, keeping her dour expression. “The food better be good.”

I imagined it would be. A-O Soft wasn’t just celebrating their year-end party, the maker of the mega-selling Linna and Bess mobile phone game APP was going public in a few weeks. The founder, and many of the others at this party, were on the verge of becoming very rich people, and I didn’t expect any expense would be spared for tonight’s festivities. They’d rented out the whole rooftop restaurant at one of Taipei’s top hotels for their party, after all.

I was going mostly as a courtesy, since I’d been teaching English classes to a group of their employees for the past few months. I’d have liked to think it was because they treated me like an honorary employee and enjoyed having me around, but my more cynical side commented that it also looked pretty good to have a foreigner at the party. Whichever it was, an opportunity for a free meal at one of the best hotels in town was not something to be wasted.

The elevator dinged and the door slid open to reveal a hallway and a decorated table staffed by a man in a suit and a woman in a soft green evening gown. The man, one of my students at the company who used the English name Harold Wu, grinned and called us over. Harold was a balding software engineer in his mid-thirties, and a gregarious man with a loud laugh and an infectious smile.

“Teacher Mark!” He said, pronouncing my name “Mah-kuh” as most Taiwanese did, “Welcome to the party. It is good to see you.”

“You too, Harold.” I shook his hand, and then introduced Lin-Xi. “This is my friend, Ms. Kang.” Of course, that Lin-Xi was my girlfriend was obvious, but she hated the term “girlfriend” in English, as she thought it made her sound like she was a child, so I used “friend” as a neutral substitute.

Her sour expression gone, Lin-Xi was suddenly bubbly and friendly, and she and Harold exchanged greetings in Mandarin. While they did, I said hello to the receptionist who was manning the table with Harold; she likely didn’t speak much English, so she just smiled back. Then I looked for our names among the buttons that were laid out carefully in rows of two on the table before us, but when I did I came up short.

“Harold,” I interrupted. “I think the printing company cheated you. These name tags are all blank.”

At first Harold looked confused, and then when I pointed down he suddenly laughed. “Oh! Ah, no. No. It’s okay, these are supposed to be like this.” He picked up a pair and offered them to myself and Lin-Xi. “Please, put these on. These are the for game later.”

“A game?” While Lin-Xi pinned hers to the front of her light green blouse, I examined mine. It looked like the buttons we’d wear as kids that said things like “Hang in there!” or “Glee club rocks!”, but was completely blank. Having a thought, I started to hold it up to the light, but Harold stopped me.

“Hey, no cheating.” He smiled, “It’s the President’s surprise.”

Resolving to check it later, I smiled sheepishly and put it on, then Harold gave us our table assignment and, with promises to talk later, we continued on down the hallway to the restaurant’s main doors. The company logo was displayed large across the glass doors in blue and green, surrounded by Chinese characters I couldn’t read. I guessed it was the company name and a greeting and didn’t bother to get Lin-Xi to translate it for me. Not that it mattered, because the moment we approached they automatically opened to admit us.

Inside the party was in full swing, and well over a hundred finely dressed people were mixing and mingling around the room while servers moved among them pouring drinks. The very large room was laid out into three sections: a small open area, which was right ahead of us; a collection of large, round tables to our right; and an elevated stage to our left. Blue, green and white paper streamers had been hung from the ceiling, and the whole place had a festive feel to it, like the New Years party it was.

Lin-Xi and I first went down to find our table, but it was empty so we just claimed our seats with our coats and then turned to head for the snack table. It was already seven-thirty and I hadn’t eaten since lunch. Lin-Xi didn’t bother with lunch most days, so I didn’t have to ask how she felt. We were making our way through the crowd and almost there when we ran into Melody Xie, the company’s VP of software development.

I had ten students at A-O Soft: two receptionists, three software engineers, two marketing planners, one accountant, and Melody. Of the group, which I taught Tuesday and Thursday evenings from six-thirty to nine, Melody was by far the one who needed it least. A confident, capable, and charming woman in her early thirties, she’d done her graduate work in the United States and Singapore before returning to Taiwan to join A-O Soft. As a result, her English was almost perfect, and I think she really just took my class to keep an eye on the rest of them.

This woman in a sunset colored dress greeted me warmly, and after I’d introduced her to Lin-Xi she leaned in and said, “Now I know why you don’t answer my texts, you bad boy.”

Caught off guard, I glanced at Lin-Xi nervously and tried to come up with a reply. Melody was the mischievous and flirty type, and she said things like this all the time, I normally didn’t mind, but that wasn’t in front of my very jealous Lin-Xi.

“Well, ahh…” I stammered. “It’s…”

For her part, Lin-Xi merely raised an eyebrow and said in a flat tone. “He’s welcome to text anyone he wants. I don’t care.”

The scene could have turned very ugly, but Melody was very much a master of social kung-fu, and knew how to keep things under control. “Don’t worry,” she told Lin-Xi with a mock sigh. “I just keep asking him about our homework, but he refuses to let business and personal life mix. Good for you, bad for me.”

And on that note, I suddenly found my voice. “Melody, is the President here? I really should thank him for inviting us.”

She nodded. “At the head table, over near the stage.”

“Thanks, can we talk later?”

“Call me anytime.” She winked, and we parted ways.

As Lin-Xi and I made our way to the head table, I glanced at her- she was quiet and serious again. “She was just joking,” I said. “She’s like that.”

“You seem to know her well.”

I winced, there was going to be a lot of repair work to do later. “She’s just a student.”

“And you’re her lucky teacher. It must be nice.”

I was starting to think maybe bringing Lin-Xi to this party wasn’t such a great idea after all when the head table came into view. President Lin was standing on the other side of it talking with two other Taiwanese men I didn’t know. He was a large, broad-shouldered man with a shaved head, stylish wire-framed glasses, and wore a very expensive tuxedo.

As we approached, he caught sight of us out of the corner of his eye and said goodbye to the men, turning to greet us. “Mark,” he said in heavily accented English. “Thank you for coming. Is this your girlfriend?”

Before I could reply, Lin-Xi introduced herself and they shook hands.

“Thank you for inviting me,” she told him. “It’s a beautiful party.”

He smiled broadly. “Mark is like one of my worker, and he is very strong at teaching. I wanted to see the woman he caught.” Then he winked at me.

“She is very pretty. You are lucky man.”

Normally, I would have made a joke at this point, but given the current temperature of Lin-Xi’s blood, I decided that the best course was just to smile politely and say, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

Lin-Xi thanked him as well, and then the president turned and called to his wife, who was sitting near him at the table. A thin, slightly frail looking woman, she was in a light purple shoulder-less evening gown and had her hair finely done up in a styled form above her head. Around her bare shoulders was a baby-blue shawl, and she wore a pair of dark blue-tinted sunglasses.

She turned to look at us slowly, and gave a thin smile. “Hello,” she said without getting up, then she also added “Ni hao,” to Lin-Xi. “Thank you for coming.”

We both greeted her back, and then she turned away from us.

“I’m sorry,” President Lin frowned and tapped his temple. “She has bad headache.”

I assured him it was okay and that I understood. Then I tapped the badge on my shirt and asked, “Are we playing a game?”

This brought the smile back to President Lin’s face. “Of course! Wait and see. There is big surprise coming, and you can win prizes.” He gestured over to the nearby stage, where at the back a pile of prizes for the evening’s games waited. Most were wrapped up like Christmas presents in boxes, but a few larger items like a bicycle, a large stuffed bear like you’d see at a carnival, and a large flat-screen TV merely had red bows attached.
I gave an appreciative nod. “Looks nice. What kind of game is it, sir?”

But he wasn’t telling, and after some of the other guests joined us, I let my hunger get to me and we wandered off to find some food.

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