Illegitimati non Carborundum
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
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
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.
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.
Burma. Kachin State," said Thomas.
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.
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.
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
so some prophet says, huh?" The slight curl of his mouth was puzzling.
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.
you working for?"
works for some one. Government? Private? Mormons?" The last remark cracked him
up, showing three gold teeth.
it private enterprise - say a small company of two."
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.
part Red Man then?" Balls-to-Monty directness.
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.
do you know about western military presence in Burma?" he asked.
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."
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
were you working for?" The grin returned but just for a moment.
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.
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.
are shit loads of monasteries in Burma. It could have been taken to any of
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."
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
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.