Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Twelve 


A Classroom of Scallywags


Viceroy was on the bar stool a few feet away, his stomach hanging over his belt in a remarkable likeness to Hemingway in his older years, complete with snow white moustache and hair crisply hacked back off his forehead. Thomas raised his pint towards him as a friendly gesture one makes when about to imbibe with his first pint after a long day at the office. The old chap raised his pint an inch but didn't drink. He vanquished the first swig in a slow, jolly lap up and followed it with a satisfied sigh of joy.

Thomas had never known Viceroy well enough to ask anything about his life, like where he was from. But with this Métis bug buzzing around his head, courage was perhaps a bit more plentiful. So when Viceroy made a comment about being from Nebraska, everything Indian ruminating inside him burst out.

"Sioux and Lakota country up there," he said, trying not to show too much interest.

"Where so many of the Indian Wars took place, like the Battle of Wounded Knee." He took his time attacking his pint. "You know much about Indian history?"

"I suppose I know some, more than the average but less than I should. I'm actually trying to find some time to read up on it." Viceroy shook his head as if he was trying to get something out of his ear.

"Naw. I reckon most of the stuff written about the Indians is biased anyhow. Best to use the school of conversation as your source of information. But then you would need to find someone who has put in their time." It sounded like a veiled invitation for him to ask more, so he pondered it for a moment. He was a gruff type, perhaps in his seventies, who had done his fair share of living and who refused to think he was over the hill. His barrel chest and arms still had white muscle on the bone, and he carried his cynical sneer with understated poise.

"Are you one of those people who know about the Indians then?" Thomas took the bait. Viceroy looked over his shoulder at the guy sitting alone at a nearby table to see if he was listening.

"You could say that. Probably even have some injun blood in me, little bit anyway. You can call it a childhood interest that grew." Thomas hid his amazement at the fact he was Métis.

"What brings you over here to Hong Kong?"

"Oh, ‘been over here for a dog's age - ever since the Commies took over Tibet." This brought Thomas back to the brandy-fest at Louis Riel's grandson's library.

"Tibet? When was that? 1950?" Aware that superficial small talk repelled the true man of knowledge, Thomas tried to get him to talk substance.

"Invasion was in ‘50. The Chinese had fortified their grip on power by '59. Didn't mess around with Tibet. They knew it was a damn fine score. Those Reds knew what they're doing - still do. Don't let anyone tell you different." He could always tell a miserable old cuss who thumbed their nose at Political Correctness by their choice of words and what they left out, but he also knew that the Metis can be as abrasive as anyone with their keen eye for disrespect and a natural reflex to throw disrespect back at those being disrespectful. He had a point: it was quite easy not to like the Chinese with their state-sponsored nationalism and their resentment still boiling over after their 150 years of colonial humiliation. They wanted respect but didn't show any for others, so he didn't have an argument with Viceroy, which he must have picked up on.

"Have you been to Tibet?" The look on Viceroy's face suddenly became serious.

"Why do you ask? If you don't mind me asking." Thomas's guess was military, and if so, he wanted to talk about it but only with someone he trusted.

"No specific reason though it's an interest of mine. To find out what happened there. I mean why the hell did everyone sit back and let the PLA take over the country? Just sick of war?" He left it hanging and looked around as if he wasn't really interested one way or another. Viceroy pulled out a cigarette.

"Water," he said. "Don't let anyone tell you different. Chinese will tell you they ruled eastern Tibet for centuries and so it was getting back what they had lost. Tibetans will say it was a cold-blooded power grab by the army that fights with love." He let himself chuckle at the slogan of the People's Liberation Army. "But from what I know, China needs water. One of the first things they did was build pipelines from the mountains east to their cities in the interior." It fit with the Chinese obsession for other raw materials like oil and natural gas.

"Simple enough," he said, reaching for his lighter. "Actually, to be honest, my interest in Tibet has to do with an ancient Indian prophecy. Have you heard of the Hopi Indians?" Thomas slid his lighter to Viceroy's elbow, stopping just before the metal hit the bone. He lit his smoke, leaving the lighter on the counter.

"Yes. Yes. The Hopis in Arizona. I'm aware of them. Why?"

"Have you ever heard of the belief that Indians expect a Second Coming of the Messiah?" Viceroy perked up and motioned towards the bartender.

"Manoj. Beer's low here. Another if you may. How's your's?" he said, shaking his double chin with pride. "My round." He nodded.


"There are religions around the world that have their own versions of a savior coming from heaven," he said. "Native Indians are no different."

"They are expecting the Messiah soon - very soon, aren't they?"

"So are the Christians." He was the type who wanted one to work for the knowledge he had in his head gathering dust.

"Do you know the story about the prophecy? He is believed to be Métis Indian."

"Métis? Half-breed you mean." He pronounced it: may-TEE. The syllable was right but the tone of distaste gave him away.

"Well, that's what it means in the original French," said Thomas. "But more specifically it means anyone with a drop of Native American blood in their veins within six generations. All it takes is one drop and it becomes dominant. More specifically, the True White Brother will be white on the exterior but a Red Man in his heart." He looked at me for a moment pulling at his moustache, his eyes showed interest. Then the pints arrived.

"Why are you saying all this? What's your bloody point?" Unabashedly showing his crankiness, he doesn't want some young-ass wasting his time. Even for the man with the white moustache, time was something that people were always trying to steal from you if you weren't on guard.

"I'm interested in the story of the Messiah because they say that one of the ancient stone tablets was brought over to the East and must be returned to fulfill the prophecy. And from what I've read, it could be hidden in Tibet." His eyes didn't waver, happy to see some backbone.

"That's better. Now you're saying something instead of pissing about." He drained a third of his pint in one gulp. "Let me tell you this, if that stone tablet was in Tibet, it's not there anymore. The Chinese either have it, or the Tibetan monks were smart enough to remove it to India or Burma." He didn't care about the foam caught in his white moustache.


"Burma saw a lot of action in the war." He rolled up his sleeves, revealing a tattoo on his forearm. "The Americans and British thought it was important enough to build the Burmese Road from China to Burma, and then the Ledo Road from Burma to India to get supplies from British India to the Nationalist army in China. You know about that?" Thomas nodded lazily and took a sip of his pint to avoid talking about an aspect of history he didn't know about.

"Damn beautiful country Burma is. It's also a strategic buffer against to the two most populous countries in the world. If I were interested in containing the growth of India and China, Burma would be somewhere of interest to me."

"But we're not talking about that," said Thomas, not letting Viceroy throw any generalizations his way. "We're talking about where the stone tablet went if it's not in Tibet."

"Follow the Burmese Road and where does it take you?" He took out his day-timer that contained a small world map. "There's a working train system that runs right up to where there are hill tribes in Upper Burma. As far as I know, it's still operating. Here-" he said, grabbing the map. He pointed halfway between India and China. "I reckon the British or the Americans knew about a possible evacuation of religious relics before the Chinese invaded, and it wouldn't surprise me if they looked out for an ancient stone tablet if it was said to affect the destiny of their Promised Land."

"I hear you. I thought Burma may be the place the stone would go. Did you ever come across ‘Kachin Dolls' in the Hopi Prophecies?" Reaching.

"Aren't they those dolls that are supposed to be Gods for Hopi children?" Thomas nodded wild mild vigor as he wiped the foam from his moustache, quite surprised Viceroy was aware of Kachin Dolls.

"There happens to be a Kachin State in northern Burma. The word Kachin is Tibeto-Burmese origin. There's some sort of connection between the Kachin people in Upper Burma and the Hopi Indians. I just don't know what it is." Viceroy stood up, reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. The way he did it sent fear through his solar plexus.

"If you want to find out about that, speak with this man." He handed Thomas a card, who looked at it closely to give respect.

"You mind if I copy down the number?" With a nod, he scratched down the telephone number and returned the card.

"Call him now," he suggested, negotiating another horrendous assault on his pint. "He's probably out at the pub, the dirty bugger." Without a word, I pulled out my mobile phone and called. After a few rings a voice answered.

"Hello, I'm looking for Stefan," he said, getting the name from the business card and having no idea what to expect.

"You got ‘em. Who's this?"

"You don't know me but we have a mutual acquaintance. I'm sitting at a bar on Lamma Island with a chap by the name of Viceroy." The man from Nebraska was busy smoking his cigarette and putting the finishing touches on his pint.

"Viceroy? Is the scallywag there now?" he said.

"Scallywag, yeah. We're sucking down a few pints." There was no sound from the other end. "The reason I'm calling is that I'm trying to find some information about northern Burma and religious relic that may have been transported there from Tibet after the Chinese invasion. Would you know anything about that?"

"I may."

"My questions are quite specific," he said, hoping for something more from the other end.

"Listen, I'm in Long Kwai Fung. You want to come over here? I've been barred from the Spicy - the bastards." Thomas looked at Manoj and felt the great axis of time churning in his gut. The opportunity cost of declining this chance to find out about Burma was too great.

"Sure. I'll take the boat to the island and then hop on my motorcycle. What bar?"

"I'm at Stormy Weathers outside. Know it?"

"I'll be there in about an hour." The dour look on Viceroy's face returned when he quaffed the last of his pint. Thomas threw down a few notes for the next round for Viceroy, who has concluded the punishment of his ale in record time.

"The Swede is a good chap y'know, of the right kidney. But he's a miserable old cuss that one," he said. Thomas swore he saw a grin creep in at the corners of his mouth.

"Like you, eh?" He took the jibe in stride but V iceroy was still his senior by thirty years. "Think he used the word scallywag." There again was a creeping smile emerging on his gob; a sight that caused him to feel immense satisfaction. He nodded at Viceroy and left for the ferry with his motorcycle helmet in his hand.


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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