A CRIMINAL CLIENT
Ben swore under his breath. Peter had just called from court to say Dylan was nowhere to be seen and was not answering his mobile. “OK, Peter, I’ll be there in 15 minutes, stand the case down if you can.” He looked at his watch, 9.40am. “Patty, can you keep calling Mr. Roberts and tell him to be at Fanling at 11.30am, very important.”
“Yes, boss”, said Patty. She was used to both Ben and Dylan, having worked for them for years. Fifty years old at least, the firm would be lost without her. She knew it too, unfortunately, and the firm had to pay her a salary in line with her importance. Ben left the office and luckily found an empty taxi immediately. He reached court in less than ten minutes. Peter was standing outside the building. Dripping in gold, Peter was one of a battery of criminal clerks employed by the firm, and one of the best. Second only to Jimmy in importance, Peter had a steady stream of criminal work. He was paid a high salary, as were the other clerks, and annoyed Ben immensely.
“Hi, Ben”, said Peter, “Dylan pissed again?” Dylan and Ben encouraged familiarity but Ben wasn’t in the mood for it this morning.
“No, Peter, Mr. Roberts had to go to another court. What’s the charge?” Ben read the file quickly, simple theft, Peter had done a good job as usual in compiling the mitigating factors that would help Ben when he addressed the court.
“How much are we getting for this?” asked Ben. “HK$5000.00”, said Peter. “That’s pathetic, Peter.” “It’s the going rate, Ben. You know the market nowadays.”
Indeed Ben did. Years ago, the firm would have charged twice as much for the same application. Now, with the extension of the Duty Lawyer scheme, and the downturn in the economy, it was true to say that a lawyer would not make his fortune practicing in the magistracy. Ben’s thoughts again turned to Rosenthal. Would he be the key to leaving this all behind? Ah well, he thought, let’s get on with it. He entered the crowded building, and found his way to court number one. He took his place in the front row with a number of other solicitors and barristers. The court was packed. The Magistrate entered.
Patrick Noble was a testy old man who had been in Hong Kong for over twenty years. Ben had been before him many times with mixed results, but Mr. Noble was kind enough this time to simply fine his client. A successful result, yet client did not seem particularly happy outside court. Ungrateful bastard, thought Ben, you should have been sent down.
“Right Peter, I’ll be on my way.”
Er...I think you’d better hang around, Ben”, said Peter, looking worried.
“Why?” said Ben irritably. “I thought we were done here.”
“I thought so too, but Patty’s just called me, we have another client in the cells.”
“Do we have money on account?”
Ben glared at Peter. “Look, I’m getting sick and tired of telling you all that we must have money on account before we step through the door of the court. It’s the only way these wise guys will learn. We’ve had our fingers burned so many times, you know that. No money, no lawyer.”
“I think we’ll have to make an exception in this case, Ben.” There was a hint of a smile on Peter’s lips that made Ben even more angry.
“Well, Dylan was apparently arrested last night and charged with fighting in a public place. He’s before Noble this morning. Dylan’s our client.”
Ben’s eyes swam. He had to sit down on a nearby bench. “What happened?” he moaned weakly.
“I really don’t know yet, Ben, you had better go see him in the cells.”
Ben nodded miserably. He pondered whether he should leave his partner to his own devices, but reluctantly decided that would be a dangerous thing to do. He took the lift downstairs to the cell area, and was directed to a spare waiting room by a police officer. Within a minute or so, Dylan was led into the room, and the officer closed the door.
Dylan was a pitiful sight. His blue Armani suit – a present from Christine– was a crumpled mess. His left eye was nearly closed. He had what looked suspiciously like blood on his white shirt. It had clearly been quite a fight. Dylan however smiled at him. Ben struggled to keep his temper in check.
“Well, this is a good one, even for you. A good night, was it?”
“Could say that”, grinned Dylan. “Before you say anything, let me tell you that last night I secured Sony as a client for the firm.”
“That’s good”, said Ben, not believing a word.
“Yeah, I met this bloke in Lan Kwai Fong from Sony, really high up, close to the managing director. I took him to loads of bars. His English wasn’t great, but we got on really well. Trouble is, I lost his card in the fight I had with him.”
“The little bastard tried to stick his hand up Christine’s skirt. I wasn’t having that. So I hit him.”
“You hit him.” Ben looked at Dylan doubtfully. Dylan was the worst fighter known to mankind. “He obviously hit you back.”
“Well, a big fight developed as others joined in, things got a bit out of control. The cops arrived, and the Jap pointed the finger at me as starting it. The cheek!
“But you did!”
“Look, you would have done the same if someone tried to touch up Debbie! Anyway, the Wanchai cops took great delight in arresting me, and locked me up. Unbelievable.”
“So, I take it that we no longer act for the Sony Corporation?”
Ben sighed. “It’s fighting in a public place. They won’t agree to a binding over, probably because it’s you. Plead not guilty and we’ll sort it out later.”
“Sure thing, counselor”, grinned Dylan. “See you in court!”
Ten minutes later, Ben was back sitting before Noble as the clerk of court called Dylan’s case. “Case number 19363, Dylan Zimmerman Roberts.” There were a few sniggers in court. Dylan’s name always did that. His parents were fanatical Bob Dylan fans, which had led to their son’s unfortunate moniker. Dylan was led into the dock area, policemen on both sides.
Ben stood up. “I appear for Mr. Roberts, Your Worship.”
“Yes, Mr. McCann, I thought you might”, said Noble. There was an excited murmur from the many lawyers in court. This should be fun. Noble looked excited too.
“Read the charge to the defendant”, he ordered the clerk. The clerk did so. “How do you plead, guilty or not guilty?” he said.
Dylan looked perplexed. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. May I consult with my solicitor?” The court exploded with laughter. Noble turned purple.
“Don’t you play with me, sonny Jim, or I’ll send you back to the cells for contempt. Guilty or not guilty”, he shouted.
“I’m sorry?” said Dylan enquiringly. Ben groaned. “I said guilty or not guilty!” screamed Noble.
“Oh, right. I get you. Not guilty to this trumped up charge, this web of deceit, this....”
“ Shut up!” Noble nearly spat out the words. “The trial will take place on 11th November. He had almost forgotten about Ben.
“Yes, sir.” “Right. Anything else?”
“I would ask for bail, sir.” A formality on such a trivial charge but Ben had to go through the motions.
“What!” cried Ben and Dylan in unison.
“Only joking, boys”, sniggered Noble. The court exploded again. “OK, $1000.00. Next case, Mr. Chan.” And that was it. Dylan was led away again by the police officers. Ben went to pay the bail money downstairs before meeting Dylan outside the cells ten minutes later, a free man again.
“Why do you do it, Dylan?” said Ben. “You know that Noble doesn’t particularly like us, why wind him up?”
“Couldn’t resist it, sorry! Anyway, there’s one good thing.”
“We’re going to be on time to meet our new clients in Fanling.”