Gloom descends upon Hollywood Road as the art exhibition officially closes, though Zee Stone Gallery will no doubt remain happy to accept orders for remaining works, with proceeds going to a worthwhile cause. In the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee, wild American friend Odell blows the froth off his organic juniper and tea tree oil cappuccino and scrolls down the page of his favourite website on his laptop. “Hey, that red, grey and black UCL Asia square thing is back near the top of the sidebar,” he says, observantly noticing that the logo is restored to its rightful position in recognition of the company’s generosity to the same aforementioned charity. He leans forward to me and whispers.
“You know they’re here now, just over there.” He glances over to the big easy chairs in the corner. “Check ‘em out – the average looking white guys sharing a cumin and cocoa butter latte. They’re offering me a job.”
I look at him in disbelief. “UCL Asia? You don’t even know what private equity is,” I point out.
“Private equity my ass,” he hisses. “They’re a CIA front. Everyone knows that. ‘Double Tap’ O’Donnell is on the left. Kills for fun. The other one calls himself ‘Brown’. Connected with some Thailand thing called Stony Beach. Jeez, you’d have thought they could think up something more original than ‘Brown’ wouldn’t ya? I pay taxes! They did the lie detector test on me in this freezing cold lead-lined ‘bubble’ suspended in the middle of a room.”
I flick through the newspaper to see how things are today in Asia’s international financial, trade, legal, accounting, tourism, wine and cruise liner hub. A group of 11 educationally sub-normal men in shorts – several of them illiterate, prematurely balding dwarfs – may list on the stock exchange. Surely this will finally cement the Big Lychee’s reputation as the world’s centre for inane initial public offerings? Liberia’s shipping registry never looked classier.
Odell is speaking into his watch and looks over briefly to the pale, sinister pair in the corner, now wearing shades. “OK boss – consider it done.” He leaps to his feat. “Gotta be off,” he snaps. “UCL business. Have to get a bunch of headless torsos inside the illegal extension on the apartment owned by Donald Tsang. Before lunch.”