THE DAY BEFORE TRIAL
The weekend passed quickly for Ben. On Saturday afternoon he played at right-midfield for Athletico de Wanchai in the Legal League, and to his great delight scored his first goal for three seasons, a simple tap-in at the far post. As he reminded everyone at Joe Bananas later, however, he was there at the right time, like a predator. He celebrated with a few beers with the lads and forgot about the Tang Clan. He woke up on Sunday morning with a hangover and the frightening thought that the trial started the following morning.
He had told Dylan, Jacob and Wai of his meeting with Chan. Wai was not surprised, labeling Chan a “scumbag”. Dylan wanted to call the police, but as Ben pointed out, what did Chan do wrong? His threats were indirect, and the police would do nothing. A report would be a waste of time.
They had arranged to meet in Ben’s office at 2.00pm for a final briefing. Dylan was nursing an even worse hangover than Ben, having stayed out to the small hours, actually managing to persuade a Swedish girl to come home with him. Ben had bumped into her when he left his room that morning, having luckily put on his boxer shorts. She was wearing just a small towel, having just showered. Ben was lost for words, and stammered his apologies before bolting for his room. Dylan, naturally, was elated.
“God, Ben, she was fantastic! A Swedish bird, I’ve always wanted one of them!”
“What’s her name?” asked Ben.
“I didn’t ask her”, said Dylan.
“Typical. Another great Roberts conquest.”
“No, this one’s different. If it wasn’t for the trial I’d be seeing her tonight.”
“Amazing, I’m surprised you remembered about our small case tomorrow.”
“She was great, Ben, do you know what she did...” Dylan went on to explain in minute detail the sexual acts that had taken place in Ben’s flat only hours before. Despite himself, Ben was impressed. He had to admit that she had looked stunning in that towel. Dylan was just describing for the third time his great performance when Jacob and Wai entered the office. Dylan started to repeat the story for their benefit but they were not interested.
There was in fact little to talk about. Everything that needed to be done had been done. The main point of the meeting was to discuss logistics. It was envisaged that Gordon would open the case tomorrow for the Clan, as the Plaintiffs. That should take at least a day. After that, the Plaintiffs would call their first witness. It had been decided that all thirteen of the Tang Clan members who were to give evidence would do so before the Plaintiffs called their expert witnesses. It would likely take at least a week to get through their evidence, perhaps two. The Plaintiffs would then call Professor Davids. The Professor had friends in Hong Kong and did not mind at all having to remain in Hong Kong whilst he waited his turn to give evidence. The agreement with Davids was that the Clan would only pay him for each day he attended trial. It was therefore no skin off the Clan’s nose for Davids to stick around.
It was possible that Gordon would finish before the end of the first day, and so Ben told Wai to have the first witness available, just in case.
“How are we going to get all the bundles to court? There must be about 50 box files”, said Jacob.
“All hands to the pump. I suggest we meet here at 8.00am to avoid any last minute panic. Between us, Deepak, Jimmy and Peter, we can manage”, said Ben.
“So it’s finally going to happen, after all these years”, said Wai.
“Yes, thanks to you”, said Dylan sourly.
“Come on, Dylan, we’ve been through this a hundred times. If we lose the case you can always recover your costs through the Tang Clan”, said Wai.
Strictly speaking this was true, but Wai knew he was being economical with the truth. Ben estimated that his firm’s costs to end of trial would be around US$3 million, the Clan having already paid around US$1 million up front over the years. They could afford to pay no more at the moment. The Clan did however have assets – land – worth around US$7 million, and so in theory the firm could obtain a charging order over this land if the Clan was unable or unwilling to pay their final bill should they be defeated at trial. The ultimate sanction would be to sell the land, recover their costs, and refund the balance to the Clan.
This would prove to be far from easy. The Clan would fight tooth and nail against it – perhaps spurred on by Wai – and the fact was that there were so many rules and regulations protecting the rights of indigenous villagers in the New Territories that any application against them would be fraught with difficulty. For instance, the Government had to approve any sale of Clan land. There was no guarantee that they would approve the firm’s application. This explained Ben and Dylan’s anger at Wai’s refusal to settle. Lose, and it was likely the firm would receive nothing.
They made further arrangements on a few trivial matters and agreed to adjourn until the following morning, 8.00am at the office.
“Sleep well, boys”, said Ben. “I think you’ll be sitting in court for at least six weeks.”
“Let’s hope not”, said Jacob. They shook hands solemnly. Jacob and Wai then left, leaving Ben and Dylan alone in the office.
“What shall we do now?” said Dylan.
“I think I’ll go home for a nap. I’m pretty tired, we’ll need our wits about us tomorrow.”
“Good idea, I’m still shagged after last night. Did I tell you what she did when she woke up this morning?”
Dylan continued to regale Ben with his tales of passion on the way home in the taxi, which at least distracted Ben from thoughts of the following day. They both crashed out when they got back to the flat, and were out for several hours. Ben was woken by the sound of the telephone. He stumbled out of bed and looked at his watch, 8.30pm, he had been out for a few hours. Dylan of course had not stirred. He picked up the phone.
“Hello”, he said. “Well hello, handsome.” It was Mandy. Ben smiled.
“What a surprise. Are you calling to say that the Government withdraws their defence?”
“Ha! I wish! I’m not looking forward to the next few weeks, I can tell you. Are you?”
“Not really” admitted Ben.
“Whatever happens, let’s promise not to be horrible to each other. It’s only another case.”
“Rather an important case for us, Mandy. I know you’re clever enough to realize how much this case means to Dylan and I, costs- wise.”
“I know. Part of me hopes you win. But then again, I may be sacked if we lose! I can’t win, really.”
“Let’s promise to go out at the end of the case, whatever happens”, said Ben.
“That’s a deal, I’ll hold you to that. Sleep well, Ben, I miss you.”
“Me too. See you tomorrow, bye.” He put down the phone and was surprised at how much he did miss her. He could see the trial turning ugly and had no doubt at all that Mandy would do everything possible to win. He was determined that his relationship with her would not affect his professional judgment. If he had to screw her on a professional basis, he would. Sorry, Mandy, he thought, but you would do the same to me, and will do if you get the chance. He grinned to himself. It could be fun.
He opened the cabinet in the bathroom, and took a sleeping pill to enable him to sleep again. He was soon fast asleep.