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Chapter Thirteen 


 

Illegitimati non Carborundum

۞

Thomas was aware that he spent a lot of time in pubs, but despite the cost and the roughnecks he met, it was the best source of education for a young man with a philosophical bent and a hunger for adventure. Insipid couch potatoes who lived vicariously through staged entertainment did not frequent pubs. Men of accomplishment and proven mettle visited pubs to brag about their exploits. Frequenting the classroom of scallywags was an education that a man could never forget because it was a school where the lessons learned were life long. Its tuition cost a few pints of beer. But more than that, it was the one place where a young man could learn what it was to be a man in a world hell-bent on turning its back on long-held values that some still respected, and a place where you could combat against arrested development and self-perpetuating ignorance from being holed up in a tiny apartment drooling on a bib and watching television.

Thomas hopped on his motorcycle at the pier on Hong Kong Island and rode to Long Kwai Fong where he parked in a small cul de sac only accessible to motorcycles and pedestrians. After the few pints with Viceroy, he didn't care whether people walked into him. Holding his posture straight and walking tall through the crowd, people moved out of the way for him as he made his way to Stormy Weathers. Nearing the bar, he heard someone say "Motorcycle man. Yo!" Stefan picked him out of the crowd from his motorcycle jacket. Raising his hand in recognition, Thomas pointed to the bar. Stefan deftly lifted his half-empty pint so he threw him a nod. Always good form to take the first round, especially when he was giving and asking for nothing back. With a couple of pints Thomas climbed up to the high point of the corner where Stefan stood with a Philippina woman who looked four-feet tall next to him. Standing at six-foot four with receding fair hair and strong shoulders, the beer belly gave away his favorite pastime.

"Stefan? Good," he said, handing him the pint and seeing similar tattooing on his forearms as Viceroy. "The name's Thomas." He offered him his hand, his fingers covered in scar tissue.

"Johanssen," he replied. "You want to know about Burma?" Guarding against coming across as too eager, he nursed his replies slowly and drank heavily to calm himself, looking at women showing off their bodies as they walked by in the quadrangle of blocked-off streets.

"Northern Burma. Kachin State," said Thomas.

"Kachin?" They both look at the woman with the unmistakable look of lust in her eyes. "Isolated as fuck up there," he said, taking his cue. "Difficult to penetrate. Couldn't take a motorbike up there. Thick jungle. Steep mountains. It's at the foot of the Himalayas. But Sweet Jesus - there are some fantastic pockets." Trying to apply what he had learned from Viceroy, he chose to go straight at him.

"I'm looking for a religious item that may have been evacuated from Tibet during the Chinese invasion into Burma." He kept his eyes on Thomas, reading his movements. "I have reason to believe that a stone relic was smuggled into Kachin State somewhere in Upper Burma." He faced the Swede, giving him his full attention. The eyes were heavy with life experience, the lines on his face bespoke of a life lived away from the couch. But the eyes didn't care if they were scrutinized; they had a violent force in them. It took physical effort not to turn away. Thomas handed him a cigarette, showing him all the respect he should, as subtle as it was with men like him. He inhaled and kept his eyes locked on the Swede's, seeing echoes of experience emanating from his soul.

"Why?"

"I'm Métis Indian and I'm looking for a sacred stone tablet that - if found - will fulfill an ancient Native American prophecy and kick-start a new age for mankind."

"Or so some prophet says, huh?" The slight curl of his mouth was puzzling.

"Put it this way. I need to find this stone tablet. If I fail, I gain an experience not to forget like a trip to Burma; if I succeed, then there could be a harvest of some kind for people who believe in these prophecies that are several thousand years old." This was his way of showing him that he was dispassionate about the religious aspects of the sacred stone.

"Who you working for?"

"No one."

"Everyone works for some one. Government? Private? Mormons?" The last remark cracked him up, showing three gold teeth.

"Call it private enterprise - say a small company of two."

"Wife?"

"Brother," he answered. "Identical twin brother." There was something in the sternness of his posture that gave way, as if he had just heard a secret password only known to initiates of a secret society. Thomas nursed it, drank his pint, lit another smoke and looked at the woman who stood there idly without a word.

"You part Red Man then?" Balls-to-Monty directness.

"Yes. Métis Indian. White on the outside and Red on the inside," he said. "And it's your round." When some men laugh they let it all hang out as if it was an achievement, and a release of energy better let out than kept in. The Swede thundered an echoing laugh that removed the game of subtle probing. The Swede gave some money to the girl and told her to go to the bar.

"What do you know about western military presence in Burma?" he asked.

"I know about Merrill's Marauders in '43 run by the OSS, and about US involvement in the building of the Burma Road. But I don't know of anything after '47 when they became independent, and virtually nothing about what was going on during the late fifties."

"Don't let anyone tell you that there wasn't any because there was. Burma was a jewel - a God damn British jewel in the middle of a God forsaken jungle, out of sight from Europe and Asia but wedged between India and China." He looked wistfully across the street at nothing in particular. "There were a lot of us there, unofficially."

"Who were you working for?" The grin returned but just for a moment.

"Let's just say we were government trained but were paid by private contractors. How's that?" What he was doing there was none of his business.

"Know anything about smuggling religious artifacts into Burma in '58 or around then?" The girl returned with the beer, but the Swede promptly told her to go buy a pack of smokes.

"There are shit loads of monasteries in Burma. It could have been taken to any of them."

"But if this item was transported, someone would need to be versed in Native American Indian Prophecies. This would suggest an inclination to take it to a Christian church rather than a Buddhist monastery."

"American missionaries were influential in northern Burma. And not all missionaries were men of the cloth" There was something hidden in that statement, waiting to be unraveled with nothing less than a sharp eye. But Thomas felt as if he was about to be given the run around, so he faced the Swede to give him his full attention.

"Look, I can't tell you what I know. It's that simple. I took an oath. But what I can do is give you a clue. First, there was a missionary who was all over northern Burma traveling way more than he needed and who was reported to be after a religious treasure relating to American history. His name is Eugene someone. Look him up. The other thing I can say is-" He stepped closer to Thomas. "The relic cannot be removed from the East unless it's one of the twin brothers, right? Or so it was said around the campfire." He winked. "Remember that when you're there looking around, because if the tablet was hidden safely in Burma then those who hid it would leave clues targeted at a twin from North America to follow a trail. Use your common sense. Got me?" He nodded. "This isn't some James Bond thing. You need to think clearly. If you can stay cool you can crack it." He put his hand on Thomas's right shoulder. "And remember what Vinegar Joe said: Illegitimati non Carborundum." He said it with slow and precise enunciation. "Don't let the bastards get you down."

The Swede had his penetrating gaze going again, and Thomas saw an entire lifetime of competence and secrets. But there was something else in his eye. It was hope, and he gave that purposely. In this moment they shared something that was based on integrity rather than greed or gain.

"I hear you."

"Hey, it's the best I can do." They both watched the swarms of people drinking on the old cobblestone road in the Long Kwai Fong quadrangle of blocked streets.

"There aren't any real laws there, so don't be stupid and get yourself involved in anything you can't handle. They speak bloody Arabic there and there's no English, so do what you need to do to get what you want. If you snap you'll end up in prison. Stay sharp and take it on the chin mate." Suddenly aware now that they have taken a corner, Thomas put out his hand and they shook.

"Good luck on your pilgrimage Thomas. We'll see if those prophecies are true after all, huh?" He left just as his tiny girlfriend returned with the smokes.

With an undeniable lightness in his step, he weaved through the crowd thinking how this new piece fit into the puzzle. The fact that the Swede knew that an identical twin had to be the finder of the sacred relic convinced Thomas that he was on the right track. Riding to the pier he began making plans to go to Burma. Those who feel the inkling to do but who do not act only betray their true self and are forever haunted by who they could have been.

  
 

 
 
 
 
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Part One - Canada
1.      The Twin From the East Returns  
2.      The Sundancer  
3.      Waxing Gibbous 
4.      The Second Coming of the Messiah 
5.      The Sacred Twin Story 
6.      The Sign of the Pahana 
7.      Palongawhoya and Poqanghoya 
8.      Rainbow Thunderbird and Red Phoenix 
9.      The True White Brother 
10.    The Lost Louis Riel Notebooks 
 
Part Two - Hong Kong
11.    A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity 
12.    A Classroom of Scallywags 
13.    Illegitimati non Carborundum 
14.    The Distant Fire of Empyrean
 
Part Three - Burma
15.    The Monastery of Sacred Tablets 
16.    The Outpost of Tyranny 
17.    When the 12th Moon Comes 
18.    The Pigeon Left & the Crow Took His Place 
19.    Go North and Find Your People 
20.    Finding Orwell 
21.    Though the Monkey is in a Hurry, the Tree Branch is Not 
22.    The Castle at God's Toes 
23.    The General and Sergeant Betel Nut 
24.    The Tattooed Station Master 
25.    Reverend Crow's Life's Work 
26.    Yield Not to Adversity, But Press on More Bravely 
27.    A Bitter Cuppa Tea 
28.    The Thirteenth Tribe 
29.    When a Lamp is Lit You Must Expect Insects 
30.    John the Christian 
31.    A Guardian Angel Named Hanna 
32.    The Bar Car & Betel Nut 
33.    The Son of Light 
34.    Slipping the Karmic Knot
 
Part Four - Hong Kong
35.    The Tonsure Warning 
36.    The Phoenix Reborn 
37.    Touching the Empyrean 
38.    Joshua the Gatekeeper 
 
Part Five - Canada
39.    Lapsit Exillis 
40.    Thunderstones 
41.    The Time of Great Purification  
         
 
 

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