A HISTORY LESSON
Professor Yau was a star. He took the court through the history of Fanling throughout the ages, and the arrival of the first Tang Clan ancestors in the area in about 1450. From historical records the Professor was able to show that the Clan left the Guangzhou area of southern China at about that time, and migrated across the border to Hong Kong. He produced a family tree of the Tang Clan, and told the court that he was satisfied as to it’s authenticity. He also gave evidence upon the building of temples and monasteries in the 15th century, both in China and Hong Kong, with particular emphasis upon Buddhist temples. He told the court that the Castle Peak temple was a classic example of Buddhist temples built in southern China during the 15th century.
Having surveyed the temple on a number on occasions, he had reached the conclusion that the temple had been built in or about 1450-1460, and was erected for the purposes of Buddhist worship. He was asked by Richard Yap to comment upon the Tang Clan’s allegations that it was the Tang Clan ancestors who had built the temple. Professor Yau said there was no doubt in his mind that this was the case. The memorial stone, with it’s inscriptions of various Tang Clan members, was to be found within the walls of the temple, and dated from around 1460. This was a sure sign of ownership, according to Chinese customs. An old rent book, which Wai had discovered in the loft of one of the Tang Clan houses, was also genuine, dating from 1766. The book, in a dilapidated but readable condition, showed the receipt by the temple of rental from tenants of adjoining lands, owned by the temple. The signatures acknowledging receipt of such monies were of Tang Clan members.
Professor Yau also went through the other evidence produced by the Clan to demonstrate ownership, mainly pieces of wood and stone found in or near the temple with inscriptions. He also touched upon the Tang Clan tradition, kept alive for centuries, of having a lantern lighting ceremony within the temple grounds at Chinese New Year, and the practice of the temple abbot providing the Clan with free vegetarian meals during this period. According to Chinese custom, if accepted by the court, this was conclusive evidence of Tang Clan ownership of the temple. When he had finished his evidence in chief, Ben was convinced that the Court would accept that the temple was originally owned by the Tang Clan.
There was one crucial piece of evidence that Professor Yau could not address. The Government had produced a document dated 11th November 1924, which on the face of it demonstrated that the Tang Clan had sold the temple to a third party at that time for valuable consideration. This was an issue for Professor Davids to explain, and Richard Yap did not touch on the subject with Professor Yau, who had done his job well.
In cross-examination, Ronnie Yuen tried to pick holes in the Professor’s evidence, by alleging that his conclusions were simply inconsistent with the evidence presented. Yuen scored a few minor points, but the Professor stuck to his guns. Ronnie finally sat down, rather frustrated.
Professor Yau was in the witness box for nearly three days. They adjourned on Wednesday afternoon at 3.00pm until the following day, when Professor Davids would start his evidence. All had gone as well as could be expected for Ben’s clients so far, but he knew that Davids would make or break them. Professor Cartwright, the Government’s expert on Chinese customary law, would be sitting in court during Davids’ evidence, passing notes to Ronnie Yuen throughout. Ben hoped that Davids would not be intimidated by his old college professor.
Ben called the hotel that evening to check on Davids, and found him to be very nervous indeed. This alarmed Ben, and he asked him if there was anything he could do to help. The Professor replied that he could do with a quick drink to steady his nerves, if Ben was up for one. Of course, Ben replied, and met him at the Mandarin Hotel lobby at 8.30pm. Ben spotted Davids in the Captain’s Bar on the first floor, sitting on a stool. To Ben’s astonishment, Davids was wearing a garish Hawaian shirt and white trousers. Smiling, Ben asked Davids where he wanted to go. The Professor said that he’d heard of a bar called Joe Bananas, and would Ben wish to go there? Ten minutes later, and Ben was standing at the bar in his local with the Professor.
Big Bob and Dylan were also in the bar, which was no surprise to Ben. Dylan’s eyebrows rose when he saw the Professor and looked quizzically at Ben.
“Look, don’t start”, said Ben. “He wanted a drink, a quick one will do him no harm.”
“Yeah, well, let’s make sure it’s a quick one”, said Dylan. “We don’t want our star witness throwing up in court.” He turned to the Professor. “Professor Davids, what can I get you?” Davids looked confused.
“Well, I’m not sure...they sell beer here?”
“They sure do, Professor. Ramos, four pints of Carlsberg.” The Professor looked at his pint doubtfully.
“It seems remarkably big.”
“Don’t worry, Professor” laughed Big Bob, “just do everything I do.” Bob picked up his glass and downed his drink in about five seconds, which was slow for him.
“Oh, I see”, said the Professor. “Like this?” The Professor picked up his pint and poured the entire contents down his throat in about the same time as it took Big Bob to down his. Ben, Dylan and Bob looked on aghast.
“Well done, Professor, well done!” shouted Bob, “ faster than these two can do it!” The Professor smiled.
“I don’t usually drink beer, I like a small sherry now and again.”
“You could have fooled me, Prof”, said Dylan, “anyone who can keep up with Big Bob is doing very well. One more and I think we’ll get you home.”
They stayed there for another hour, and the Professor had another three pints. Ben kept a close watch on him and he seemed no worse for wear. He meekly followed Ben and Dylan out of the pub when they said it was time to go.
“Bye, Professor!” said Big Bob, who had found a true drinking friend. “Tell you what, when you’ve finished your evidence, come down one night and we’ll have a good session!” The Professor shouted his agreement as he was ushered through the door by Ben and Dylan. They took a taxi back to the Mandarin and said goodnight.
“That’ll have done him some good, I hope”, said Ben.
“Either that or he’ll smell like a brewery in the morning. Bring some breath freshener with you”, said Dylan.
“He’ll be fine. We need to go to bed too. “
“Aye, stop that taxi.”
They were both up early, before 7.00am. This was the big day, if Davids did not come up to scratch up then that was it for the Tang Clan. Ben had impressed upon Davids the importance of his evidence, and he seemed to understand. He was clearly keen to put one over Professor Cartwright. Whatever turns him on, thought Ben, as long as the end result was right. They reached court early and went to the canteen for a coffee. They met Gordon, Richard and Peachey, who where already there, enjoying their breakfast. Gordon appeared to be also enjoying the sight of Peachey’s legs.
“Morning, gentlemen”, said Gordon. “And how is our star witness?”
“We arranged to meet him upstairs at 9.45am” said Ben. “In case you need to speak to him.”
“No, no, we had a good conference with him last week, he knows what he has to do”, said Gordon. “Peachey, be a darling and pass me the salt, will you. No, I think our Professor will do well.”
“Fingers crossed”, said Dylan. Ben and Dylan finished their coffee and took the familiar elevator to Court 25. There were a number of people outside the court, but no Professor Davids as yet. It was 9.45am.
“He’ll be here in minute. I’m just going to talk to Mandy for a second” said Ben. He had spotted her looking at the notice-board and couldn’t resist approaching her. He tapped her on the shoulder and she looked around, startled. She smiled when she saw Ben.
“Good morning, Miss Lam”, said Ben, “how are you today?”
“Very well, Mr. McCann” laughed Mandy. “May I have a kiss?”
“I don’t think that’s permissible under court etiquette, Miss Lam, but I’m sure that can be arranged in the foreseeable future.”
“I’m glad to hear that Mr. McCann. I shall look forward to it.”
They chatted for a few minutes about nothing and Ben thought for the hundredth time how much he liked her. What would happen after the trial, he wondered. Would he try to have a go at saving his marriage, or try to get it on with Mandy? His thoughts were interrupted by Dylan.
“Sorry to spoil your chat, but I thought you’d better know that Davids hasn’t turned up yet. Gordon is worried. It’s nearly 10.00am, we start in a minute”
Ben shook his head in exasperation. These academics were pathetic, really, no knowledge of the real world. He called the Professor’s mobile, it was turned off. Strange, thought Ben, he had told him to leave it on at all times. He rang the Mandarin.
“Room 212 please, Professor Davids.”
“Putting you through, sir.” It rang for ages without an answer, and Ben was about to disconnect when someone picked up the phone.
“Professor! Professor! It’s Ben McCann, what on earth are you doing? It’s 10.00am, you should be here, we’re just about...” The line went dead. Ben felt a sense of dread. Luckily, the Mandarin was only five minutes jog away.
“He’s still in his room. I’m going to get him”, shouted Ben, running for the elevators. “Tell Gordon and Richard, they’ll have to make up some excuse for the judge.”
Dylan shook his head miserably. It had been going too well, something had to go wrong. And it had.