Fat Man and Pebble Zhang
As everyone in the market knows, Pebble Zhang's profitable stall once belonged to Fat Man. Despite being only about 20 meters away from Pebble Zhang, Fat Man's stand can only sell about 10 barbecue fish dishes a night, while Pebble Zhang's can hit 60 or 70. Fat Man often has no business and nothing to do after 9 p.m., but he can be seen straining his neck to see how many fish Pebble Zhang is selling.
Fat Man, you see, used to make rice balls, but then moved onto the more profitable barbecue fish with a secret recipe he claims to have perfected. His barbecue fish became a hit.
But when Fat Man returned to Nanjing from a Spring Festival visit to his hometown, he found that the marketplace had been rearranged, with Pebble Zhang in his old spot. Bargaining fell on deaf ears, with Pebble Zhang asking for 50,000 RMB. Fat Man had no way to defend his interests, because Pebble Zhang's brotherin-law was an “apprentice” to the head of the realty management company in charge of the night market, a supposed enforcer with a penchant for beating migrant workers.
To make matters worse, Pebble Zhang, according to Fat Man, stole the original owner's barbecue fish recipe, claiming he did so by picking through the garbage station behind Fat Man's old kitchen.
However, a veteran of the rivers and lakes drama, Fat Man had his own tactics; he befriended Brother Dragon, a distributor and a “living rowdy ghost” who monopolized the beer supply in the market. Fat Man bided his time until one night, after too many beers, Brother Dragon got drunk and urinated in public. This scandalous behavior from a well-known figure soured his standing with the market's regulars—but not Fat Man. Seeing an opportunity that night, Fat Man kindly escorted Brother Dragon home to avoid further damage to his reputation.
Their power combined, they formed a mutually beneficial monopoly on the fish sales in the market by instituting a 2 Rmb-per-kilo “commission fee” on the suppliers—a scheme that turned out to be rather profitable. His stall may not sell the most fish, but Fat Man kept his reputation in the society via the favor of a friendly rowdy ghost.
Fat Man can be seen walking a dog in the market most nights. Brother Dragon had tried to raise the dog, named Little Tiger, to be a fierce and loyal hound, but it turned out to be a cowardly little mutt. Fat Man liked the dog, and as he walks it up and down the market streets, he tells anyone who will listen that it was a gift from Brother Dragon.