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.
and Lakota country up there," he said, trying not to show too much interest.
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?"
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.
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
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.
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.
brings you over here to Hong Kong?"
‘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.
When was that? 1950?" Aware that superficial small talk repelled the true man
of knowledge, Thomas tried to get him to talk substance.
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.
you been to Tibet?" The look on Viceroy's face suddenly became serious.
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.
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.
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.
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
Yes. The Hopis in Arizona. I'm aware of them. Why?"
you ever heard of the belief that Indians expect a Second Coming of the
Messiah?" Viceroy perked up and motioned towards the bartender.
Beer's low here. Another if you may. How's your's?" he said, shaking his double
chin with pride. "My round." He nodded.
are religions around the world that have their own versions of a savior coming
from heaven," he said. "Native Indians are no different."
are expecting the Messiah soon - very soon, aren't they?"
are the Christians." He was the type who wanted one to work for the knowledge
he had in his head gathering dust.
you know the story about the prophecy? He is believed to be Métis
Half-breed you mean." He pronounced it: may-TEE. The syllable was right
but the tone of distaste gave him away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
you want to find out about that, speak with this man." He handed Thomas a card,
who looked at it closely to give respect.
mind if I copy down the number?" With a nod, he scratched down the telephone
number and returned the card.
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.
I'm looking for Stefan," he said, getting the name from the business card and
having no idea what to expect.
got ‘em. Who's this?"
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.
Is the scallywag there now?" he said.
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?"
questions are quite specific," he said, hoping for something more from the
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.
I'll take the boat to the island and then hop on my motorcycle. What bar?"
at Stormy Weathers outside. Know it?"
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.
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.
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.