ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE
The hours went by very slowly in the container. It was very hot during the day and there was of course no air-conditioning. Dylan had tried shouting for help throughout the previous days, to no avail. It was better with Stan there, at least they could try to keep each other’s spirits up. By 10.00am on Wednesday, however, Dylan was nearly at his wit’s end. He was hungry again, and also rather frightened, although he would not admit so to Stan. His captors came bang on time. The door opened, the shaft of light, and darkness. Then the torch shining in their faces.
“Good morning gentlemen”, said the usual guy. “You only have a few hours left to go, one way or another.” He was silent for a moment, as though to let his words sink in. “I apologise again for such primitive conditions. Here are your breakfasts.” He handed over two bags. Dylan opened his and ate quickly.
“You’ve forgotten the hash brown”, said Dylan. His captor gave his customary whining laugh.
“So sorry, Mr. Roberts. I am sure however that Mr. McCann will do the right thing today to enable you to fill yourself with hash browns tomorrow morning. He will receive a telephone call this morning reminding him of his obligations. Whatever happens, my friends, I will not be back again. We have a man in the Registry Office. He will call us after 4.00pm to advise whether the Notice was filed. If Mr. McCann files the Notice, my colleagues will be back at 5.00pm to release you both. If the Notice is not filed, they will be back in any event. I hope you and your colleague are religious men, Mr. Roberts.”
Even though the light was shining in their faces, as usual Dylan and Stan could not make out the faces of their captors. Stan believed they probably were wearing masks just in case.
“In the event of a happy ending, you will be taken by car to an unspecified remote location. I am sure you will be able to eventually make your own way back to civilization. Please forget this ever happened. I do not need to remind you that the police must never be told of this incident. The consequences would be grave for all concerned.”
“Goodbye sir”, said Stan. “Perhaps we could meet up for a drink some time?” Another braying laugh.
“I doubt it, Mr. Baxter, but thanks for the invitation. I wish you good luck, gentlemen. Adios.”
The men left the container. Pitch darkness again. Stan switched on his torch watch. Less than six hours to go. He munched on his Egg McMuffin. He did not believe that they would be released even if the Notice was filed. They were dead men. He did not relay his fears to Dylan.
Ben was in the office at 8.00am. He tried to read the newspaper, but could not concentrate. He tried to do some work, but that was a waste of time too. Everyone in the firm knew that today was the crunch day, they had either seen the note or had heard about it. Patty knocked on his door at 9.30am.
“Yes, Patty?” said Ben. She was in tears.
“Mr. McCann...Ben...I hope you don’t mind me talking like this...all the staff have discussed things, and for what it’s worth we think you should file the Notice today. I know the case is very important to you, it could make the firm millions of dollars, and I know the firm needs the cash...but everyone in the firm is willing to help out, perhaps taking a pay-cut or something. Just get Dylan back.”
Ben was choked. He felt a lump in his throat.
“Don’t worry, Patty, everything will be OK. I’m going to file the Notice.”
“Thank you, Ben”, she sobbed, and left the room.
What Patty did not realise, and maybe Dylan either, was that filing the Notice would likely lead to a massive law suit against the firm, which their insurance policy would not cover in full. It was one thing to apply to come off the record as solicitors acting, it was quite another to discontinue the action. It would be implied that the firm had clients’ instructions to do so. They did not. It would be open – perhaps – for the Clan to issue new proceedings, with a new firm of solicitors, but they would likely have to pay the Government’s costs of this action before being allowed to proceed with the new one. Ben estimated the Government’s costs conservatively at over HK$10 million dollars thus far. The Clan would not be able to afford to issue again. By filing this Notice, Ben was effectively debarring the Clan from justice.
Personally, he would likely be struck off the roll of solicitors in Hong Kong for professional misconduct. That would likely spread to the UK too. The Law Society may take into account the extenuating circumstances, he really did not know. Dylan may escape, as having nothing to do with the decision. What was certain is that things would never be the same after the Notice was filed. And yet, he knew he was making the right decision. He could not live with himself if anything happened to Dylan or Stan because of him. He had to do it.
“What time is it?” asked Stan.
“3.50pm” said Dylan. He had thought through the likely scenario of filing the Notice too, and had come to the same conclusions as Ben. He almost wished that Ben would not file the damn thing. He did wish that he had never heard of the Tang Clan. If they got out of this, and the firm closed down, he was determined to get those people responsible for this, with or without the police’s help. It would be his life’s work.
“Mr. McCann will be at court now” said Stan.
“Yeah”, said Dylan. Now that their stay in the container was coming to an end, one way or another, he felt almost light-headed.
“You shouldn’t have done it, you know, Stan. All this just for me.”
“Wasn’t just for you, sir. Mr. McCann promised me a big bonus if I could get you out alive.” They both laughed.
“Ah well, at least Ben has saved some money” said Dylan. They both fell silent. After a few seconds Dylan thought he could hear voices outside. The bastards had come back early. He was suddenly panic-stricken. Was this the end? How were they to die? Strangely, though, the door was not opened.
“Do you hear that?” asked Stan.
“Yes, they must be back, and they’re early”, said Dylan. Something was wrong however, he felt. He crawled over to the door of the container and put his head to the crack at the bottom of the door. He heard shouts, which he couldn’t make out at first. They became closer, and more clearer. Dylan then heard a voice.
Ben had arrived at the High Court at 3.00pm. He did not want to run the risk of getting caught in a traffic jam. He sat down in the coffee bar, and made small talk with a bunch of solicitors he vaguely knew. In his briefcase was the Notice of Discontinuance, duly signed by himself, with a copy for the Government. The kidnappers’ note had not expressly said that he had to serve a copy upon the Government, but as the High Court rules specified this, he thought he had better do it, he did not want the kidnappers to have any excuse. He would see Mandy after filing the thing in court. She would be so surprised. He almost smiled. Perhaps he could continue seeing Mandy after this was over, at least one bar to their relationship would be out of the way.
Ben paid his bill, and said goodbye to his colleagues. He walked down the stairs to LG1, where the Registry was situated. A small queue at the window. He looked at his watch. 3.35pm. He would wait in the queue and wave people on when he got to the front, until 3.55pm. He would have to file it then. He stood in the queue behind five other clerks. He reached the front at 3.45pm. He allowed the person behind him to file first. Then the next. 3.55pm. What the hell. He had to file now. He was opening his briefcase when his mobile rang. Who on earth is this, he thought. He was tempted not to answer, but the guy in front had not quite finished. Sighing, he fished his phone from his inside jacket pocket.
“Hello”, he said.
“Dylan! Dylan? Is that you?” Ben was so shocked he nearly dropped the phone.
“Yes, it’s me! Please tell me you haven’t filed the Notice, please tell me!”
“No...I haven’t...I was just about to. Where are you? What’s going on?”
“No time to explain now, just DO NOT file the Notice, Stan and I are fine, we’ll be back in the office by 6.00pm with a bit of luck. Sit tight and wait for us. See you soon.”
Ben was now at the front of the queue, completely stunned. The girl behind the counter was shouting at him. The clerk behind him asked if he wanted to file something.
“Oh...sorry. I don’t think I do.