The Fanling Conspiracy

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Dylan and Ben had arranged to meet in Joe Bananas, their local bar in Wanchai. Ben sat at the bar, and looked at his watch, Dylan was late again. It was 5.00pm and the bar was nearly empty. Dylan had failed to turn up at Delaney’s at lunchtime, some nonsense about losing his passport in Manila. He said he’d definitely be back in the afternoon. Ben sighed and ordered another San Miguel. He wanted to go home but he had to talk about this temple thing with Dylan. Despite his irritation with his partner, Ben could not help a feeling of excitement when he thought about Rosenthal’s proposals. He could open a bar in the Philippines, or Thailand. He could retire. His thoughts were interrupted by a heavy slap on the shoulder.

Ben spluttered into his pint and glared at Dylan, who was grinning manically. “Hey”, he said, “you should have come down, I met this 15 year old in Rascals. I’m in love!”

Ben just about got the words out in his anger. “Firstly, it’s against the law to shag 15 year olds in Manila. Anywhere come to that. Are you mad? You could get life imprisonment. Secondly, what’s happened to the battery factory?”

“Oh, that’ll happen soon”, said Dylan. “Harry’s sorting that out, we’ll be shipping millions of batteries before too long. Don’t forget, we have 10% of the company. We’ll be millionaires this time next year!”

Despite his anger, Ben couldn’t help smiling. Dylan was always up for a deal. He was the alleged rainmaker of the firm, although there had been rather a large drought over the past two years.

“Look, I think we may have got lucky”, said Ben.
“What, we’ve got sponsorship for the dance parties in China?”

“No”, said Ben in exasperation, “this is real.” He told Dylan the story of the Rosenthal deal. Dylan listened patiently until Ben was finished.

“Sounds like a scam to me.”

“I know that, but I’ve checked them out.” From the Internet, Ben had confirmed that Wai did in fact have a degree from Hong Kong University, and Rosenthal had passed his bar exams in England. He had also ascertained from a friend at the Law Society that they had indeed asked for a list of solicitors’ firms.

“At least see for yourself and make your own mind up. We’re talking serious money here.” Ben was getting rather heated and Dylan gave in.

“Alright, lets get them down the office again. Ramos, pint of Carlsberg.”

“Don’t need to, we’re seeing them and clients at Fanling tomorrow morning.” He looked at Dylan. “ Are you still on those tablets? Those pills that could sedate an elephant?”

“Yeah, I’m still having problems with Christine, she’s driving me mad. I’m sure she’s seeing someone else.”

“Not that bloke Gavin, surely? I thought he was in Bangkok now?”

“He is. Guess where Christine’s been this week. On a business trip, she said.”

Ben sighed. He’d introduced Dylan to Christine at Luigi De Agostini’s party a few years ago, and Dylan never let him hear the end of it. He felt sorry for them both really. Although Christine was certainly a flirt, Dylan would try the patience of a saint.

“I’m going home, I’m tired”, said Ben.

“No, come on, Leroy’s coming in soon. One more drink”, said Dylan.

One more drink. The Roberts mantra. “Oh, alright. San Miguel, Ramos. Oh no, it’s two for one, I forgot.” An early night went out of the window as their mates arrived in the bar over the next half hour. Of these, Ben’s best mate was Big Bob, a man-mountain who could sink a pint in seconds, and delighted in doing so night after night. This had had, unsurprisingly, a rather alarming effect on his waistline, and to say that he sported a bit of a belly would be an understatement. Bob was involved in shipping insurance, which happily for him involved a good deal of drinking with clients in Wanchai girlie bars. Bob had, in effect, his dream job.

“Hey, Ben”, said Bob, his stomach resting comfortably on the bar. “I bet I can drink this pint faster than you can drink that bottle.”

“You know you can, Bob, you’ve done it to me a million times. Try Leroy, he might beat you.”

“Yeah, I’m on”, said a high-pitched cockney voice. Leroy was a 6 foot 4 inch architect from London. He was also a beer monster to rival Big Bob, and could be relied upon to lift spirits on a dismal Tuesday night. Ramos drew the pints and Leroy and Big Bob stood opposite each other.

“Right “, said Dylan, “when my hand hits the table, go! One, two, three, go!” Both drinks were consumed in less than four seconds, but Bob was the clear winner. The bar cheered it’s champion, and Big Bob beamed.

“You’re a true athlete, Bob”, said Ben. “Now, I really have to go, got to be in Fanling tomorrow morning. As do you”, he said to Dylan, who smiled.

“Do you fancy a bit tonight, Ben?” asked Bob. “We’re going to Club Highway soon, they’ve got a new crop in, very nice. You can come back to my place, Maria’s back in Manila again.”

“Very funny, Bob.” Bob had married Maria, a beautiful Filipina, only months previously, and despite promising fidelity, had added new meaning to the word promiscuity over the past few weeks. Ben was certainly no prude, far from it, but he thought it a bit much. It was however almost expected of expats in Hong Kong.

“Don’t forget, Dylan, Fanling District Office car park, 11.30am. And you’ve got a mitigation for Peter at Eastern Magistracy at 9.30am.”

“I’ll be there”, slurred Dylan. Ben looked in his glazed eyes. The spirit was definitely willing, he thought, but he had better keep himself on standby, just in case.

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