A Day in the Life of Curly Jones, Lawyer



EVERY MORNING after the paracetamol, the coffee and the pain au chocolat at the Hong Kong Club, Curly Jones, partner in the law firm of Magnus, Gray and Ping, sat back, gazed at the ceiling and pondered the precarious nature  of  life  in  general  and  his  in  particular. Hercules Ma’s  group  in conveyancing were planning his downfall and had formed an alliance with Samson Wong’s gang in litigation. Both Ma and Wong had to watch their backs, however, because neither was going to produce as much profit this month as Curly confidently expected to make. Curly’s best pal Jerry Johnson had decided to take his real estate company public using, naturally, Magnus, Gray and Ping to do all the fixing for that golden commercial event, the Initial Public Offering. Big bucks for the firm, thanks to Curly. Admittedly, it was a one-off and Curly’s record had been pretty dismal for most of the year, but an IPO was a big one-off, a matter that not only generated tons of billable hours, but also brought glamour and prestige to the firm. For the moment, at least, Curly was bullet proof.

     Regrettably, this was not always the case. Most of the time Curly, professionally speaking, was on life support. He argued, whenever his future was discussed, as it often was, that, as the last gweilo partner in Magnus, Gray and Ping, he was more necessary than ever. In Hong Kong, he urged, there remained enough of the old school of wealthy red-faced long-lunchers who expected to deal with – well, a wealthy red-faced long-luncher, when they suffered the expensive need for legal assistance. As the gweilo rainmaker it was his indispensable job to supply the gweiloclient with vintage anaesthetic prior to delivery of the firm’s bills, if not at the Club itself then at one of the hysterically overpriced French, Italian or Japanese restaurants downtown, where only the hysterically overpaid could afford to eat.

     It was, naturally, an argument with a limited shelf life. As the long-lunchers retired or died off from liver-related ailments, he felt as if he were a losing player in a game of Go. Little by little he found his territory surrounded by hostile forces in control of the likes of Hercules Ma and Samson Wong. Not that Curly took his war personally. He knew that Ma and Wong lacked sufficient emotional development to dislike him. They only wanted his shares. All of them.

     Curly was finishing his breakfast with a fourth coffee and a third paracetamol when his mobile phone bleeped. He checked the window to see if it was a Commercially Important Caller: it was. Indeed, it was the CIC of the month, none other than Jerry Johnson, the long-term pal who was, albeit unknowingly, saving his professional life this year. JJ wanted lunch that very day. Curly already had a lunch appointment – Curly always had a lunch appointment – but protocol determined that you did not refuse to lunch or be lunched by a man you were about to bill for the best part of a million HKD, so Curly used his exquisitely honed, top-of-the-range and sparingly used: ‘Absolutely delighted Jerry, absa-bloody-lutely DELIGHTED, nothing would give me greater pleasure. Where shall we go?’ Curly looked around at the deeply familiar surroundings of the Club. ‘The Club?’

     Normally Jerry Johnson loved to be taken to the Club, which had inexplicably (or, depending on which side of JJ you were working from, all too inevitably) rejected his application to join on more than one occasion. Today, however, he sounded tense and subdued. ‘No, I think not, my friend.’

     ‘Oh?’ Curly said.

     ‘I think somewhere discreet, on the other side of the harbour.’

     Curly knew doom when it spoke through his mobile phone. J J was pulling out of his decision to take his firm public. In a flash he saw forced retirement followed by chronic alcoholism in tandem with a squalid lifestyle in a well-known corner of Bangkok; he was aware that for decades now work had been his only protection against those twin vices that, like boiling Himalayan rapids, permanently threatened the fragile kayak of his existence. Nevertheless, a pro to the last, his voice was caressing rather than paranoid when he said: ‘Nothing wrong I hope, Jerry?’

     ‘Not with the IPO, if that’s what you mean,’ JJ replied, with just a hint of bitterness.

     Having mastered the free-fall of absolute despair, Curly now had to control a spasm of soaring euphoria that was urging upon him a near-irresistible fit of giggles.

     ‘Well, then, my dear friend, you name the time and place and Curly Jones will find a way to sort it all for you,’ Curly said in his best bedside manner, then hiccupped.

     Now Curly was taken aback by what sounded very like a sob from JJ ‘I hope so, Curly, by God I hope so,’ he said.


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