The Fanling Conspiracy

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Ben sat on the sofa for an hour before making a move. “Bunny”. That was the pet-name on the note found in Judge Chang’s bedroom. It could be a coincidence. It was a common enough nickname. He had to find out. He could hardly believe that Mandy would be sleeping with the old judge, and the suggestion that she was mixed up in his murder was surely preposterous. And yet...

He arranged to meet Stan Baxter at his office at 12.00am. He finally got through to Dylan on his mobile, and asked him to meet them both there. Dylan promised to attend, worried at the tone of Ben’s voice. Dylan had enjoyed a wild night at Neptune’s disco with Ben’s mate Ivy (now known as Ratwoman), and woke up with a splitting headache in the Century Hotel in Wanchai. Not far to crawl to the office, he muttered to himself.

Stan arrived at 12.00am prompt. There was a skeleton staff in the office as Ben had given some staff the day off as a result of the previous day’s celebrations. Patty was the only secretary present. Dylan arrived shortly after Stan. They sat in he conference room, after asking Patty to take an early lunch.

“What’s up?” asked Dylan. “It better be good, Ratwoman was on good form this morning. Leave that door open, Stan, let the air circulate, the air-conditioning’s crap in here. ” Stan obliged.

“Oh, it’s good alright”, said Ben. Stan was looking at the two scraps of paper, both with “Bunny” inscribed. He sighed.

“Well, Mr. McCann”, he said, “I’m not a handwriting expert, but it seems to me a perfect match. Look.” Ben glanced at the papers, not wishing to believe it. He felt sick to his stomach.

“What are you on about?” asked Dylan testily. Ben told him. Dylan was dumbfounded.

“You have got to be kidding”, he said.

“I wish I was”, said Ben sadly. “The girl that I was about to perhaps marry is in fact a murderer. Or at least an accessory. Funny that.” Ben was not laughing. Dylan was appalled. Only Stan took it in his stride.

“Always had a feeling about that one, with respect, sir.” Ben shook his head. What were they going to do?

“Are we going to the cops?” asked Dylan. “Think carefully about this. We’ve won the Tang Clan trial. Clients have got their money. We will get ours. A re-trial could be ordered if this gets out. What if we lose the re-trial? My God, it would be disaster. I’d have to keep working. No early retirement. I vote we keep quiet. What good will it do telling the cops now?” Ben shook his head.

“Have you forgotten about Tyler? He’s just been convicted of the Judge’s murder. This new evidence would get him off on appeal. How can we not go forward? We owe him that.” Silence ensued for a minute or two. Dylan broke it.

“That’s not necessarily true, Ben. All it shows – if the handwriting turns out to be Mandy’s – is that she was in the judge’s flat at some time over the days, weeks or months before his murder. It isn’t evidence that she was involved in his murder.”

“That’s true”, said Ben slowly. “But remember, the prosecution have to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. The jury had to be sure Tyler did it. Richard Yap would have had a field day with this new evidence. A Government counsel having an affair with the deceased, and not coming clean about it! No way could any jury find Tyler guilty. The judge would have had to direct the jury accordingly. There was no way that Mandy should have been involved in the Tang Clan trial anyway. She sat their every day as head of their in-house legal team. I can’t believe it. Even if she is totally innocent, it’s beyond belief that she said nothing.” Stan grunted.

“That’s what makes me believe she was up to her eyeballs in all of this, sir. If she was innocent, why say nothing?” Ben silently agreed with him.

“But...if she was involved...was what the motive?” said Ben. “Judge Chang was clearly not on our side. Why kill him and risk a more sympathetic judge? Assuming they killed him for reasons relating to our case, which I still find hard to believe.” Dylan stared stonily at him.

“Ben, face facts, man. She was the Government counsel on the case handled by Chang, one of the most high-profile cases in many years. She slept with you. She slept with the judge. If her affair with the judge was totally innocent, she would have had to, at the very least, told her employers about it, once the judge was found dead and Tyler charged. No way would she have been allowed to keep hold of the Tang Clan trial, she would have been replaced. She wasn’t. To me, that proves one thing...that this conspiracy goes to the very heart of the Hong Kong Government, and Mandy was simply a pawn in the game.”

The then heard a slow clapping of hands. All three men turned round sharply. Mandy was standing at the door of the conference room, with a weak smile on her face.

“I assume this means I won’t be invited to dinner tonight, Ben? A pity. I was getting to like you. I’m sorry, I did knock, but there was no-one at reception. Anyway, please carry on, most entertaining, don’t mind me, I’m only the murderer apparently.” Ben stared at her, she seemed so cool.

“I’m sorry, Mandy. I really am”, said Ben. “But you can understand why we are so concerned. Our friend is in jail for a crime we know he didn’t commit. We now have evidence that you or the government were part of a plan to kill the old judge. I don’t want to go to the authorities, Mandy. But tell us the truth. Were you involved in Chang’s murder?”

The smile suddenly disappeared from Mandy’s face, and she suddenly looked frail and vulnerable. She sat down at the table, tears now falling down her face.

“It goes to the very top, Ben. The very top.” She looked Ben in the eyes and swallowed hard.

“Get her a cup of coffee, can you Dylan?” whispered Ben. Dylan obliged.

Mandy told her story, mostly to complete silence from her audience. She had been having an affair with Judge Chang for a few months before his death. She had made the first approach at a party once it was known that he would be the judge in charge of the Tang Clan case. The Government was desperate not to lose the case. So many careers depended upon it. The corruption in the sixties had led to many Government employees making fortunes. This case threatened to blow the corruption wide open. Those who had minor positions in the sixties now had top jobs. They couldn’t take the risk of exposure. Mandy’s job was to persuade the judge to come down on the Government side.

“But...but...” Ben had said, “surely you succeeded? Judge Chang seemed to be pro-Government from the off?”

“It may have seemed that way”, said Mandy, “but we knew better. Judge Chang was a fair man, and also a very religious man. He had read the court papers. He was also an avid visitor to the temple during his younger days. He had been made aware of the Tang Clan’s claims since his youth. He had grown up believing the temple to be a Tang Clan temple. Although he was a fair man, and would of course listen to the evidence, those above me felt it was too much of a risk.”

“And so you decided to kill him? Wasn’t that going a bit far?”

“Those above me made the decisions, Ben. They are sick and frightened men. The judge gave me a key to his flat. I didn’t like to go there often in case I left any prints. I was paranoid about that. The plan was to simply kill the judge and leave the murder unsolved. But your plan with Tyler changed all that.”

“What?” said Ben. Mandy coloured.

“Yes, we had to act fast. We found out about your plan. We placed someone in the judge’s flat that night, in the hope that Tyler did come home with the old man. Luckily for us, he did.”

“But how did you find out about our plan?” said Dylan. “It was conceived on the Monday, and executed on the Tuesday!” Mandy looked at him, Stan and Ben, deliberating. She shrugged her shoulders.

“A good friend of Sebastian. Once we found out, it was easy.”

“Who was that person?”

“I’m not sure I should say. A very good friend of mine actually, who was unaware of the importance of that information. You’ll find out soon enough. But not yet. Tyler was virtually carried into the flat by the old judge, and passed out on the bed. When he woke up, the judge was in his battle armour, all ready to go. Tyler ran away, our man cut the judge’s throat. A professional. He had no trouble getting away unnoticed.” Ben was finding it difficult to take this all in.

“He placed the murder weapon in the dustbin, having been careful to put one of Tyler’s prints on the knife while he was comatose and the judge was busying himself in the kitchen. In retrospect, he should have put more than one print on the knife, but never mind, it did the trick.”

“The trick being that Tyler was convicted of murder.”

“Ben, I am so sorry, I wanted to tell you, but I was also in fear of my life. These people will stop at nothing.”

“And now I know. You realize that once I tell the police about this, Tyler be acquitted and many people will go to jail, including you.” She stood up, in tears, nodding.

“You must do what you have to do”, she said. Ben, Dylan and Stan looked at each other.

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