Dawn, and the day’s first dozy and dolorous commuters arrive in the central business district of Asia’s leading international financial centre. They are watched discreetly by wild American friend Odell in his upholstered little lair near the window in the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee. The perv-voyeur has to be careful as he monitors the passing parade of pert secretaries and marketing floozies in their shiny heels, black stockings and tight skirts, for his Thai wife Mee is at his side. Apart from furtive glances during occasional sips of his air-dried durian and organic hibiscus mocha, he pretends to read the newspaper. Or even reads it.
“Wow… Oh my god… Jeez, Hem, look at this here. This is it!” He thrusts page two of the South China Morning Post’s City section in my face, leans towards me and starts whispering. “Doncha think that a certain, uh, brown person sitting next to me who could, ya know, bring a bit more money in, might, um…be interested in this?”
He has seen an ad in the personal announcements section:
“What, exactly, are you getting at?” I ask after reading it.
A loud gurgling noise announces that Mee has finished the Coke she brought in from McDonalds. She burps politely, declares, “I go see cake,” and walks over to the pastries counter.
“It’s obvious,” Odell tells me and starts to describe how his underemployed wife could apply to work as a sort of trophy masseuse/nurse/maid to what he envisions as a slightly obscure version of centenarian billionaire Sir Run-Run Shaw. “The old guy’s obviously lonely and freakin’ loaded right?”
“And,” – I remind him, knowing full well I shouldn’t – “he probably doesn’t have any family or, um, heirs.”
Odell’s eyes widen.
“But let’s be realistic,” I hasten to add. “Look what it says here: ‘refined, educated, single Chinese classy lady’. Let’s go over those one by one, shall we?”
“Naaah.” Odell waves me aside. “The old guy don’t care about that. Mee’s grandfather was Chinese – local rice miller. She’s kinda classy. In her own way.”
I hold my tongue. I’m not sure how she came to be here in the Big Lychee. I do know that many years back she paid a police constable with serious gambling debts to officially marry-then-divorce her, thus providing her with a Hong Kong ID card, which in turn led Odell to marry her after he was expelled from the Mormons for lapsing disastrously from missionary work in Wanchai into alcohol and women.
Mee returns with a chocolate croissant on a paper plate. “Hey, monkey ass!” she demands. “Why you look at girls walking past again?”
Odell sits her down. “No I’m not looking at the girls,” he reassures her. “Just their clothes. The dark blazers, the white blouses, the smart black shoes.” He takes her hand. “How’d you like it if, um, after work today, we go and get you some really nice formal stuff like that, huh? Maybe some pearls?”