A DAMSEL AND A LAWYER IN DISTRESS
Ben and Dylan were at a loose end for a few days after the end of trial. All their energies for such a long time had been put into the case, it felt strange that it was now all over bar the shouting. Dylan did not come into the office much the following week, and Ben did not blame him. Ben himself pottered about in the office, doing a little work, but not much.
He was however looking forward to one event that week. He and Dylan had been asked to be judges on a local Filipina beauty contest, grandly named “Miss Philippines Hong Kong”. There was a very large Filipina community in Hong Kong, mostly maids, or ‘amahs’. The firm acted for the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, and did a great deal of work pro-bono for their people, something Ben felt strongly about. He believed the Filipina maids especially were treated disgracefully on occasions by the locals, and tried to help them wherever possible. When asked by the Consulate to be judges, Ben hesitated, but thought it may be a bit of fun. Dylan was of course much more enthusiastic, and had lurid images of sleeping with each contestant.
“These girls are not professionals, Dylan!” said Ben. “I hardly think they are going to prostitute themselves with you for a handful of dollars and a plastic tiara!”
“Just you watch, mate!” said Dylan. “It may not be Miss World, but these girls will be going for it!”
Dylan was therefore dressed in his best suit when he and Ben attended a dinner at the Consulate on Friday evening, which was to precede the main competition the following day. Ben also tried to look his best, simply out of courtesy to his hosts. The swimsuit element of the competition was to take place that evening, with the interviews and evening wear part the following day. Ben was indeed impressed by the organization of the event, he had expected something much less lavish, and for the first time felt a little nervous about his own participation.
Ben and Dylan sat with the leading officers of the Consulate at the head table, and Ben had to admit that Dylan behaved himself impeccably. Indeed, Dylan was in his element. Having had numerous flirtations with Filipinas in the past, he had learnt a smattering of tagalog, which went down well with the hosts, and he had them in fits of laughter. Ben noticed with amusement that the older wives especially warmed towards Dylan, and he looked forward to the sight of Dylan trying to escape their clutches at the end of the night.
Dylan of course had his sights set upon the younger generation. The contestants, to be more exact. There were five judges in all, Ben and Dylan being the only two foreigners. They bowed and waved when announced after dinner, to a heroes’ welcome. The show started after dinner, and Ben could not help noticing that some of the girls were stunning in their swimsuits, most of who wore bikinis which left little to the imagination. Dylan stared goggle-eyed throughout the parade. After the girls had finished their show, a disco started up, playing Filipino hits, none of which were familiar to Ben. He thought he would stay for a little while, before making his excuses to leave.
Ben was chatting to the Philippine Consul himself when Dylan tapped him on the shoulder. Rather annoyed, Ben excused himself and turned to Dylan.
“Do you know who I was talking to?” said Ben, crossly. “Only the host of the whole evening.”
“Bugger that!” said Dylan. “Listen, I’ve spoken to five of the hottest babes in the competition, and they all want to sleep with us tonight!” Ben looked at him.
“And why do they want to do that? Our wit and personality, I suppose?”
“No, of course not! Well, maybe! They know that we’re judges, they’re desperate to win. The money on offer would feed their families back home for two years!” Ben was himself surprised at the prize-money – US$15,000 was a substantial amount of cash, especially so in the Philippines. Even so, Dylan had clearly had too much to drink.
“Dylan, they are messing about with you. They’re decent girls, not bargirls.”
“I’m telling you, Ben, they’re up for it. To them, this is Miss World. We can make their dreams come true!” Ben laughed.
“They must be pretty desperate if they want to go to bed with us, I would agree with you there. Come on, let’s go, I’m tired.”
“Have you heard anything I’ve said?”
“Yes, and you’re welcome to it. Even if there was an iota of truth in what you say – which I very much doubt – you forget I’m in the middle of a tug of war between Mandy and Peachey, I don’t need more trouble.”
“Ah, Ben, come on, you’ll never get another chance like this!”
“Enjoy yourself, Dylan. Remember, we have a good name with these people. I don’t want it ruined as a result of your libido.” Dylan shrugged.
“Suit yourself. Don’t wait up!” He winked and went off to join a group of girls, who seemed to welcome his return. Ben sighed, and was introduced to another group of people by the Consul. He talked politely to them for a few minutes, before making his excuses. It was ten o’ clock, he was tired, and he was going home. He thanked the Consul, and agreed to be at the Holiday Inn the following afternoon at 2.00pm for the conclusion of the competition.
He caught a taxi almost immediately and was home in a matter of minutes. The beauty of living on Hong Kong Island, he thought. He decided to run himself a bath, and luxuriated in the bubbles for a long time. He fell asleep, and woke up in a tub full of tepid water. He swore to himself, and heaved his hefty frame from the bath, refusing to look in his full-length mirror. The doorbell rang, giving him a fright. He was astounded, he looked at the wall clock, it was 2.00am. Surely it wasn’t Dylan, had he lost his key, the idiot? He padded to the door, wrapped in a small towel. Standing outside was a tall, stunning Filipina girl, dressed in full evening dress.
“Er...yes?” asked Ben.
“Don’t you remember me, sir?” asked the girl, smiling. Ben was almost bowled over by the strength of her perfume.
“Er...sorry. Do you have the right apartment?”
“Sir...I spoke to you tonight at the Consulate”, she smiled disapprovingly. “I’m Ivy.” Oh my God, thought Ben, it’s one of the contestants.
“Oh...yes, of course.” It suddenly hit Ben what was happening. “Oh, very funny, Dylan”, he shouted, and stepped outside the door. “You can come out now, arsehole.” Clearly a Dylan practical joke. “I’m sorry, Ivy, my partner is a moron, sorry about this.” Ivy looked puzzled.
“Who is this Dylan?” she asked. Ben stared at her. Suddenly there was a large crash, and Ben saw to his horror that the door to his flat had closed. He realized immediately that he was dressed in a small towel that barely covered his privates and he had no key. He turned red immediately in embarrassment.
“I say...”, he stammered, “I’m very sorry...you aren’t with Dylan?”
“No. Is that your partner? The other tall Englishman there did give me your address, I hope you don’t mind me coming. I think you’re so handsome”, she said dreamily. This is insane, thought Ben.
“Look, I’m very sorry, Ivy”, he said firmly, “I am a married man.” He re-adjusted his towel.
“Is madam home?” she asked.
“Well...no...she’s in England”, he admitted.
“So what’s the problem, sir? Or can I call you Ben?” This is ridiculous, fumed Ben inwardly.
“Look Ivy, I am a married man and I am not into adultery. Now please go home.” Ivy lent against the wall, pouting.
“Only if you give me a kiss”, she said coyly. “You know my number in the contest? I’ll go home if you vote for me tomorrow.”
“Yes, yes, of course, now just go home!” groaned Ben. His towel slipped again, giving Ivy a glimpse.
“Wow, you’re a big man, sir!’ she squealed. “Are you sure you don’t like me?” Ben had had enough.
“Now look, young lady, what you’re doing is very naughty. I have a good mind to get you thrown out of the competition.” Ivy laughed.
“Ooo, you’re so handsome when you’re angry, sir, do you want to spank me?”
“No, I don’t. Now go home, or I’ll call the police!”
“OK, I’m sorry, sir, you’re a decent man. Don’t mention this to anyone, will you? I’ll get into big trouble, I would be sacked by my employers.”
“You’re an amah?”
“Yes. I’m very sorry sir.” She did seem a bit ashamed, thought Ben. “Will you take me downstairs to the taxi, I am afraid the doorman will not let me out without your consent.” Ben knew this to be true, the security guards in his building were fanatical, which was normally a comfort, but not in this instance.
“Come on, then”, he said miserably. He pressed the button and waited for the lift. He almost pushed Ivy into it, and traveled to the ground floor with her. He hoped there would be no-one about, but his wishes were dashed when the doors opened. To his dismay, standing outside were his neighbours from the 26th floor.
“Ah...Mr. And Mrs. Willoughby-Smythe, good morning, how are you”, he stammered, making sure his towel was in place around his nether regions. “May I introduce you to...er...”
“Ivy”, said Ivy.
“Indeed, Ivy, a terrible mistake in fact, a misunderstanding, rather funny actually, ha ha...” said Ben rather hysterically. Mrs. Willoughby-Smythe gave Ben a withering look, and Mr. Willoughby- Smythe glared at him. They pushed past them into the lift, Ben catching words such as “disgraceful” and “prostitute”. Ben groaned. He turned to find Mr. Chan, one of the security guards, smiling at him.
“Good morning, Mr. McCann, been up to no good, I see?” Mr. Chan was a big fan of 1950’s Ealing classics.
“No. No, not all all, Mr. Chan, it’s not how it seems”, said Ben anxiously.
“Nice bit of crumpet, sir, if I may say so myself.”
“Look, listen, man, she’s nothing to do with me!”
“Nothing like a bit of how’s your father” said Mr. Chan respectfully, and winked at Ben.
“I don’t even know her!” screamed Ben. Mr. Chan looked at Ben quizzically.
“If you say so, sir.” He winked again. “Good morning, sir.” He went back behind his desk to read his newspaper, as though he came across naked foreigners on a regular basis.
“Right, come on, taxi for you, now!” said Ben firmly. He grabbed her by the hand and his towel fell to the floor. She screamed at the sight, and Mr. Chan raised his face from his newspaper.
“Not in the lift lobby, if you don’t mind, sir.” Ben screamed inwardly, and ushered Ivy down the steps to the taxi rank, being careful where he stood in his bare feet. There were no taxis waiting, to his dismay.
“Please wait with me, sir”, pleaded Ivy. Ben looked at her.
“It may have escaped your notice, Ivy, but I am dressed in a small white towel, which just about covers my genitals, and my bottom is on show to the entire world. I am not really dressed for a night out.” He saw a taxi approaching with relief.
“Take me home” pleaded Ivy.
“Don’t be ridiculous”, said Ben.
“I’d be ever so grateful, sir. I live on Kowloon side, in Shamshuipo, it’s not a nice area. I get frightened sometimes. I promise I will say nothing about all of this if you take me home.” There was a veiled threat behind these words that Ben recognized with alarm. Muttering death threats against Dylan, he scrambled into the taxi, Ivy sitting down beside him contentedly. She placed her hand on his right knee. He looked at her askance.
“Don’t you try anything”, he warned.
“Wouldn’t dream of it”, she laughed. “Thank you, sir, you are a true gentleman.” Ben was sure this was not the opinion of the ancient Chinese taxi driver, who was muttering away in Cantonese to himself. Luckily, Ben could not understand what he was saying, but he was sure it was not complimentary. Ivy then screamed.
“What’s the matter?” asked Ben, alarmed.
“Oh...it’s OK...I thought I’d lost my purse...here it is, in my bag, sorry.”
“Oh. Right.” The car sped to the cross-harbour tunnel, which was usually full of traffic, but only a few cars at this time of morning, to Ben’s relief. They had crossed the harbour when Ivy screamed again.
“What is it now?” shouted Ben. “There’s a rat in the car, I’m sure, there’s a rat!”
“What? Don’t be stupid, woman, there’s no rat!”
“There is, there is! Oh my God, stop the car, stop the car!” She was screaming at the top of her voice. Ben looked around frantically. The taxi driver looked back at them nervously. Ben shouted at him.
“I say, there’s a rat in the car. Stop the taxi!”
The driver shouted at Ben in Cantonese, which was simply another language adding to the cacophony of tagalog in the car which Ben didn’t understand. Ben suddenly realized he was in a very vulnerable position to a rat attack, being dressed in a small towel, and lifted his legs with fright.
“Shut up!” he screamed at both the driver and Ivy. The driver was at least trying to break the world ground speed record, they would be in Shamshuipo in minutes. He closed his eyes, and tried to block out Ivy’s screaming. At last the car ground to a stop. Thank God, thought Ben.
“Right, Ivy, a great pleasure to meet you. Goodbye.” The door to his left opened however, and the taxi driver was dragging him out of the car.
“Hey!” shouted Ben struggling. “What are you doing, man?”
Ben was no match for the wiry old man who got him in a headlock, and led him up the stairs of a nearby building to a well-lit reception area. Ben had lost his towel by this stage in the struggle, and was completely naked. Some others helped in restraining him, and he went limp. He was taken to an empty room and placed on a chair. He looked around. He saw that he was in a police station. He could not believe it.
“Let me go!” he screamed to the two uniformed officers staring at him incredulously. “I am a solicitor!” One of the policeman approached him, and spoke to him in English.
“You’d be wise to be quiet, sir. The taxi driver says you were sexually assaulting a young woman in his taxi. Screaming her head off, she was. I’m not surprised, disgusting, look at you... ”
“What! That’s preposterous! There was a rat in the taxi!” The policeman ignored him.
“The young lady has disappeared. She apparently ran away when the taxi stopped, not surprisingly, poor woman. Hong Kong does not look kindly upon attacks on it’s people by foreigners.”
“I didn’t attack her”, screamed Ben. “And anyway, she’s Filipina, not one of your people.”
“Oh, that makes a difference to you does it, one of them Filipina haters. You lot make me sick.”
“I wasn’t assaulting her, officer.” Ben tried to be calm. “The woman thought she saw a rat in the taxi. I met her at a party last night. She followed me home. She wanted to have sex with me. I was having a bath and got locked out. I agreed to take her home. She thought she saw a rat in the taxi, she started screaming. The taxi driver obviously thought I was assaulting her...God knows why...and took me to the station.” The officer shook his head.
“Sir, we are going to keep you in custody for a while. And if I was you, I would try to think of a better story than that. We’re trying to find the girl. We’ll talk to you again in a few hours. Here’s a shirt and some trousers. Put them on.” He handed them over to Ben, who took them with thanks. He felt acutely vulnerable without clothes.
“Are you charging me?” asked Ben.
“OK, give me my phone call.”
“With pleasure, sir.”
Ben called Dylan.
It was 10.00am. Dylan was sitting opposite Ben in a holding cell in Shamshuipo police station. Dylan was trying not to laugh, but it was difficult. Ben was finding it difficult to talk without jumping on his partner.
It had not taken the police long to find the girl, as she had left her handbag behind in the taxi with fright. In the meantime, Ben could not get through to Dylan, either at home or on his mobile phone. Ben surmised, only partly correctly as it turned out, that he had been successful with one of the contestants. He sat in his cell for hours, alone, ruminating on methods of causing death to Dylan by the most painful ways possible. Dylan finally returned home at about 9.00am, and listened to Ben’s hysterical message on the answer-phone with bewilderment. He caught a taxi to the station immediately. Upon introducing himself to the Officer-in-charge, and confirming Ben’s identity, he was advised that Ben was free to go, the young lady having confirmed his unlikely story. Dylan was led into Ben’s cell and gave him the good news, no charges were to be brought, everything was OK.
“OK? OK?” said Ben bitterly. “I’ve been parading naked around town, nearly savaged by a rat, seduced by a lunatic woman, suspected of sexual assault, sat in a cold cell for hours, and it’s alright?” Dylan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Had Ben gone off his rocker?
Ben gave a more lucid description of what had happened the night before.
“Oh, Ivy found you, did she? She’s a bit of alright, isn’t she, did you do the business?” said Dylan. Ben stared at him incredulously.
“Are you listening to a word I’m saying?” He went on to the towel, the taxi, the rat, the arrest. Dylan kept quiet for the duration, before collapsing into laughter. Ben glared at him murderously.
“Oh, I’m sorry Ben, but come on, it’s a great story, you can dine out on this for years. I thought you could do with a bit of fun. You made a big impression on that Ivy, she wouldn’t leave me alone until I gave her our address. How did I know you would decide to ride naked with her in a cab to a police station? Come on, lets get out of here. I’m never comfortable in these places.” Ben followed Dylan out of his cell to the report room, where the cops present had a good chuckle at Ben’s expense. Ben tried to ignore them, red-faced. He could not get out of the station quick enough. He made it to the steps outside before turning on Dylan again.
“And where the hell were you in my hour of need?”
“Ben, it was incredible. Three of them.” A vivid description followed, which nearly made Ben throw up.
“Problem is”, laughed Dylan, “that all three want to win the competition. What shall I do?”
“I have no idea, Dylan. What you sew, you shall reap. Or something like that. I’m not going anyway. You may understand that I’m not in the mood. Give my apologies to the Consul.” The taxi arrived back at Tanner Garden, and Ben went straight to bed, but not before one final solemn warning to Dylan.
“If you say one word about this to anyone, I really will kill you.”
“Don’t worry, old son, mums the word.”
Dylan attended the competition and gave Ben’s apologies. He voted for a beautiful girl from Cebu whom he had somehow not spotted the night before. After the competition, he told the three girls individually that he had voted for them, of course, but the other judges wouldn’t go along with him. He said that he still wanted to remain friends with them, and he thought he got away with it. He then noted Ivy looking particularly upset.
“Mr. McCann is not here, sir?” she asked Dylan tearfully.
“Ah...no, I’m afraid not. Between you and me, rather tired after last night.”
“Oh. Do you think I should go and see him?”
“Er...no, not a good idea. Give me your number though, and I’ll make sure he calls you.”
“Really? Thank you sir.”
“No problem. By the way, I’m Dylan, do you fancy a drink or something?”