The postman showed up at my door one bright and sunny Monday morning with a package; a package that I was required to sign for. My name is Ardwell, George Ardwell and I received this package and an accompanying letter by regular post; albeit a little late; in fact, six years late.
The letter was from a legal firm representing my uncle, a man I had never met. I live in Montreal, well Beaconsfield actually, a suburb of Montreal, and my uncle, although Canadian, to the best of my knowledge, hadn’t visited Canada during my lifetime. He apparently left his job suddenly and headed to the Orient sometime just before I was born and was never heard from again.
From my uncle’s manuscript:
“My Dear Nephew:
While we have never met, I have, nonetheless, followed your career with some interest and if you are reading this, then you will know that I have left you something of great value and that it only requires that you locate it. In support of that effort I provide the following background.
In 1972 I found myself in dire straits and urgently needing to get to the Orient. I was destitute and out of gainful employment and an associate of mine in Hong Kong was desperate for my help, so my only option was to sign on to work a tramp steamer heading out of San Francisco to Hong Kong. The steamer left in early December, bound for Hong Kong by way of Osaka. The trip was slow and not without adventure. We encountered high seas, storms, doldrums and weather that varied from cold to searing hot. The four week crossing felt like four months. All of the crew, except for myself and an elderly Chinese gentleman – Mr. Woo – were regulars and had done the crossing many times before. As the outsiders, Woo and I formed a mutual bond getting to know each other quite well. …..”
So we left the apartment and headed out to Hollywood Road Park where Ying pointed out a plaque on one of the park’s pagodas, which, translated, read:
“The connection of issues and objects that may seem unrelated creates the web of life. Those that listen may see, and those that see may obtain treasures and wisdom of great value.
Listen to the words of this Pagoda:
– the name of my park connects to a man,
– the residence of this man connects to a person
– the interest of that person will start you on your journey
My time has run out but I leave this for one who may see
And find the road to the riches and wisdom I have forsaken.”
Nonetheless the world was still fraught with real and potential war zones. Korea was a major conflict in the fifties and Vietnam was in full sway by 1960. The Soviets and Americans were in the midst of a cold war trying to divide the rest of the world between themselves whilst the rest of the world was trying to hide from the advances of both. The Middle East, always volatile, was, after the creation of Israel, a powder keg just waiting for someone, anyone, to strike a match. As if that was not enough Africa was awakening to the fact that they no longer needed to be colonial territories and, anxious for self rule, were prepared to fight for their beliefs. For many of those already granted their freedom, internal conflict between rival tribes flared up into civil and territorial wars. The whole world, it appeared, was crying out for arms and so, abhorring a vacuum, the opportunists rushed in to satisfy and fuel the need.
“And so it was that we all headed out for the Shaggy Dog Inn just south of South Bolten and north of Mansonville. It was an old inn, not entirely in disrepair but not up to Michelin Standards exactly. Rustic was a good word, and character, you couldn’t forget character. It oozed character. The bar, for example, was in the basement of the Inn and had an earthen floor, rambling between rooms reminiscent of a cave. The serving area was behind a cage, much like an old bank teller’s cage from the wild west – designed I expect to keep prying hands from the good stuff while the bartender/owner circulated with the guests. Weekdays weren’t much, just the few guests that might have stopped by, but the weekends would bring in the local crowd and that was an event to behold. It was as an eclectic a gathering as you could imagine from the local bricklayer to the local baron, all mixing without consideration of class or standing in the community. The owner, one Hamish Hamilton, being an author of some note, would hold forth on some new rant while the clientele would banter with and about his latest discourse. Starting as an intellectual discussion about nine pm it would progress down an ever escalating ramp to the dungeons of obscurity by the wee hours of the morning. Few patrons, by that hour, would brave the winding road out to the highway and quite frankly few could have negotiated the highway even had they gotten there. So on the weekends the inn was full with local transients looking for the hair of the dog by noon the next day. Saturday and Sunday brunch was an event that dredged up the previous evening’s rhetoric putting a new spin on the past night’s ramblings. It was an environment that encouraged new meetings, original discourse and freedom of expression not envisioned by the founding fathers. It was life unique to the Shaggy Dog.”
“…. If you were a chess player this was a 3-D chess game and your father, Ying, was a master of the game. He was moving product from Canada to South Africa during apartheid, sanctioned by the CIA and shipped via Israeli transport at Mossad’s direction and he didn’t show up anywhere in the transaction, although corresponding commissions did show up passing through his bank accounts. ….”
“….. and so on a quiet evening, March 22nd, in the Brussels suburb of Uccle, Gerald Bull pulled out his key to enter his apartment when, from the shadows, an assassin emerged, firing two 7.65-millimeter rounds from a silenced gun into the back of his head at point-blank range.”