“You lying bastard.”
“Look, I’m telling you the truth.”
“No way, man!”
Ben was having trouble in persuading Dylan of the truth of the events of the night before. He had trouble in believing them himself.
“You did it!”
“Yup. In numerous positions.”
“What was she like?”
“Ah, man, I can’t describe it. She’s amazing.”
When he had finished his vivid account, Dylan was green with envy. Mandy had wanted to go on for hours, and to Ben’s pride he had managed to give a decent performance. The phone rang to disturb him from his reverie.
“Well hello, big boy”, said a voice at the other end of the line. Ben grinned.
“Hello, Mandy. How are we today?”
“Ben, I’m so tired, you’re such an animal!” Ben grinned again. “ Can I see you tonight?” she said.
“Sure thing. I’ll cook dinner, if you want. Mandy, I had a great time last night.”
“Me too. I usually have trouble with new relationships, but...well...not last night. Look, Ben, I have a favour to ask, I hate to do it, especially after last night, but I really need another month for these expert reports. Can I have it?” What the hell, thought Ben.
“Anything for you, darling.”
“Thanks, Ben. I’ll come round about eight o’clock. Bye!”
Dylan stared at him. “What have you agreed to now?” Ben told him rather sheepishly. Dylan was incredulous.
“A month is ridiculous, Ben, and you know it. It compromises our position. You know client would never agree to it, never mind Jacob and Wai.” Ben knew but wouldn’t admit it.
“It’s no big deal, Dylan.” Dylan’s phone rang and he was soon chattering away. Ben frowned. He knew he shouldn’t have done it, but how could he refuse after last night? It would have been churlish. Dylan ended his phone conversation.
“Well, Jacob and Wai are coming in after lunch”, he said. “I wouldn’t tell them about it yet.” Ben was silent, he thought Dylan was probably right.
Ben was in fact seriously wondering whether he was doing the right thing. He still hoped to get back with his wife, and he realized this was hardly the way to go about it. Debbie was not likely to be impressed by his actions. There was also the issue of ethics to consider. Ben considered himself to be a fair and trustworthy solicitor, always having the best interests of his client at heart. Did sleeping with the enemy come into that category? Perhaps as long as he did not compromise client’s case, it would be acceptable. It may even aid client, he thought, if he discovered something from Mandy that would assist. He admitted to himself, however, with a sense of unease, that his fledgling relationship with the Government lawyer had already compromised client’s position on the expert report issue. He was not looking forward to the meeting with Jacob and Wai.
Luckily, the boys were excited about something else. They had been checking all the documents recently supplied by the Government during the process of discovery. There were literally thousands of documents, and they believe so much rubbish had been supplied simply to wear them down. Painstakingly, however, Jacob had been through every one, and it was clear there were some documents missing. Three particular files from the Fanling District Office had an index attached to the inside over. Only some of those documents listed in the index had been supplied to them. It was a classic case of selective discovery.
“Right”, said Dylan, “let’s go to court now and get an order from the judge for discovery of those documents.”
“I agree”, said Jacob. Ben held up his hands.
“Now hold on”, he said. “Are we sure about this? If we are wrong, then it lays the client open to a substantial costs order against them.”
“How can it be wrong, Ben?” asked Dylan. “It seems open and shut.”
“A lot of things seem like that at the beginning, Dylan, until you hear the other side’s argument. I say we take Richard Yap’s advice on it. We’ll need an affidavit anyway to show to the judge.”
“OK”, said Jacob, “I’ll prepare a draft of an affidavit for Richard to settle. I know the documents better than anyone here.”
“Good. I also have an idea, if you don’t object”, said Ben. He coughed. “I think I’m getting the confidence of Mandy Lam now. I can speak to her to ask if she would provide these documents voluntarily. If she does, we’ll save a lot of money for client.” Jacob and Wai considered this.
“Well”, said Wai, “if you can persuade her, great. I don’t think you’ll succeed though, you don’t know what she’s like.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Wai”, laughed Dylan. Ben glared at him.
“Right, I’ll try my best”, said Ben. “In the meantime, Jacob, get that draft prepared.” They left it at that. The time extension granted to Mandy was not mentioned, that could wait to another day. Ben was left alone in the office with Dylan.
“So you’re seeing her tonight?” asked Dylan.
“Yes, I’ll see what I can get out of her”, said Ben. “I think I’ll go home now, actually, if you don’t mind. Got to get myself ready!”
“No problems, off you go. No doubt a big night ahead of you.” Ben grinned and left the office. He called at the chemist to buy some aftershave, something that he was sadly lacking. He spent an hour lying in his bath, before starting dinner. He was preparing French Onion soup, his speciality, and a chicken curry. How could she resist me after that, he thought?
Mandy arrived on the dot of eight. She looked sensational, Ben thought, dressed in simple white t-shirt and black lycra leggings. She kissed him on the cheek.
“Wow, something smells good!” she exclaimed. “And it’s not your aftershave!” Ben reddened, he had put far too much on, and it did smell rather peculiar.
“Yes, well, I’ve prepared a gourmet meal for two, please take your seat, madam.”
Ben had gone to town, tablecloth on the table, his best cutlery (which wasn’t up to much), and two candles. To his delight, she ate heartily, and said it was the best soup and curry she had ever tasted. Things progressed smoothly from then on, and without much effort on his part, Ben managed to get her into the bedroom, where they repeated the gymnastics of the night before, with even more vigour, if that was possible. They lay in each other’s arms, exhausted. Ben thought now was the right time to make his move.
“Mandy”, he said softly, “can I ask you something about the case?” She groaned.
“Ben, I thought we promised each other not to talk about it.”
“I know, but it’s important and might save us both lots of work. Now seems as good a time as ever.”
Ben explained the problem of the missing documents. Mandy sighed.
“Ben, you know the discovery rules as well as me, if not better. We say those documents are privileged, we don’t have to produce them for that reason. The main reason though is that they are completely irrelevant to the case.”
“Well, if they are irrelevant and won’t harm your case, what harm can there be in giving us copies of them?”
“Ben, if we had to provide copies of all irrelevant documents, where would it stop? We could literally deluge you with millions of unnecessary documents, I’m sure you don’t want that. Ben, you know that we only have to produce to you those documents we consider are relevant to the case. Honestly, the documents you are referring to are not. Forget about it.” She felt that Ben had tensed up against her.
“Oh now look, you’re angry with me, I know we shouldn’t have spoken about work.”
“No, no, its OK, I raised it.” She placed her hand in his groin again and was reassured to find the usual reaction.
“Can I ask you something, then?”
“Go ahead” said Ben, kissing her neck.
“Who do you have as your expert in Chinese customary law? We’re having great trouble in finding one.” Ben considered her question. They had decided to instruct Professor Peter Cartwright, the world- renowned leading expert on Chinese customary law from Cambridge University in the UK. Ben had already spoken to him, the instructions were nearly ready to go. He could see no harm in telling Mandy this.
“Wow, she said, “ we were trying to get him, but he didn’t return our calls. He’s the best, apparently. Bad news for us!”
“Well, there’s others around”, said Ben, as he snuggled his head into her neck. He was exhausted, and soon fell into a deep sleep.
He woke up at 7.00am. He saw that Mandy was still asleep. He kissed her head in an effort to wake her gently. She stirred slightly.
“Come on, young lady, time to go to work.” She groaned.
“Just five more minutes, please Ben, I’m so tired.” He gave her ten more minutes before gently shaking her.
“Come on, the Government can’t do without you. I’ll make you a coffee.” He padded to the kitchen in his ridiculous cat slippers that his mother had given him as a Christmas present. He made two cups and returned to the bedroom, Mandy was now sitting up and in the land of the living. He gave her the coffee.
“You know what we talked about last night? About the missing documents?” She groaned.
“I thought we’d settled that.”
“Mandy, I have to tell you that Counsel has advised us to issue a summons for specific discovery of those documents. Can you not just do me a favour and let me have them?” Mandy turned to stare stonily at Ben, coffee in hand.
“Ben, this is precisely why we should not discuss work at home. I cannot give you those documents even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. End of story.”
She seemed a little angry, so Ben left her alone to drink her coffee in silence. Eventually, she showered, and said goodbye, a little half-heartedly, Ben thought. Shit, why did he mention bloody work, he thought. He should have kept his mouth shut. He showered and got dressed for work. He didn’t know why, but he felt a little uneasy.