Chapter 49

Image Source: Roelli, P. (2005) The Thanka Wall overlooking Tasilhunpo. Retrieved online
June 9, 2018 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tashi_Lhunpo_Monastery

 

Hamburg, British Zone of Occupation.
Thursday 20 May, 1948.

She is seventy-one: thin, quietly drained; a pale feat of a woman. Her expression is sour. Time has pressed her cheeks inward, clamped her mouth shut. She might have been happy, but that time has passed. They all knew he would meet a bitter destiny. Margarethe pours the pan’s boiling water into the teapot and replaces the cover. Margarethe Lincoln: always faithful to him.

Sun light fades and then bursts through the windows in the kitchen and the lounge. Indifferent, it pushes through the blind onto the brown chairs and carpet. Margarethe’s home is a simple two-up, two-down; her brother-in-law in the guest bedroom. Her youngest, Clifford, stokes the fire. His Uncle Simon’s face is in the paper. Simon is sixty-eight. He resembles his brother with balding thin black hair. The pot is wrapped in an oven glove and set on the table. Margarethe is glad Simon will spend another few days here.

Deep black coal smokes in the lounge. Clifford pours the tea, and they talk about his Uncle Lajos, now Louis. Still living in Cleveland, reading his socialist papers, but too ill to travel. Simon’s step-brother, Julius, at fifty-five is still serving in the army. There is an unspoken agreement between the men to avoid talking about ‘their famous one’.

The Abbot Chaokung was reported to have died in Shanghai on October 6th, 1943. They said it was an intestinal virus. In death there are as many stories of him: that he spent his remaining days with drug dealers and white slavers; that the FBI knew he was operating as a Nazi spy; that he was interred in Shanghai’s Hongkou Ghetto. There were reports that he had been poisoned. That he had written a letter to Hitler full of demands and threats. A friend saw him in hospital, but the next day she found a different man in his bed. In her search for him, she was repeatedly turned away until she learned he was in a private suite and private meant private. There was a funeral but no one saw a body. The German National Observer claimed he died in Vienna. American troops allegedly found his grave but the coffin was empty. Since then he has been sighted at his home-town Paks, in New York, and in Argentina. Simon wanted to write a book about his brother fifteen years ago. The British consulate in New York were cold to him and it put an end to the idea. Ignacz and he quarrelled but Simon thought he could put the hate behind him. Coal crackles and splashes cinders over the hearth which disappear in the mesh fireguard.

When Margarethe returns they are talking about Sandor. He never left the Budapest family home, and so Clifford never met him. The sun glares through the living room blind and subsides again. Margarethe recalls Sandor. They met once or twice. He appeared shy, but likeable. Then she thinks of his fate: taken to Auschwitz, never to return. She is shaking. The good son helps her to her seat. Simon bows his head. The fire provides some heat now and his eyes are watering too. He knows his sister-in-law’s tears are not over Sandor. He is here because news reached them a week ago that John is dead. His mother, who left him on Java, struggles to work past the fault line, and to grieve properly. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia, John was interred in Lapas Sukamiskin prison. After years of torture, he moved to Western Australia. He struggled to adapt. His restaurant crashed and John took his own life. opened up a restaurant. Sorrow drips from Margarethe’s chin as she goes for fresh bedding.

Simon listens for her reaching the top of the stairs before picking up his paper. He removes a sheet, stands and pulls out the fireguard. Clifford takes the paper out of his hands. Simon shakes his head but the nephew is already reading. The sun light expands, from the kitchen and the lounge, coalescing in the doorway between them. It is faded, like a spectre of something here long ago. A void: an outward expression of an inward fear. Clifford is reading that his father, Trebitsch Lincoln, has been sighted at a monastery in Darjeeling. The journalist suggests perhaps it is a stop-off on his journey toward Tibet. The off-white light creeps towards the dimpled edges of the tabloid. It is a near humanoid shape, a no-detail silhouette, fluctuating. Trebitsch Lincoln has passed on. He is no longer alive: on this earth, this plane; certainly, not in this room.

Lies! Lies!” the void shouts. “Do not listen to them, son. They will print everything and anything about me if it serves their own devilish ways!”

The rest of the column is the usual potted biography: Canadian preacher; British MP; double agent; military advisor and Buddhist monk.

Don’t bother reading that,” says Simon.

Simon?” says the void, “What is he doing? Here in my home? This is not your family, robber!”

Your father treated me appallingly,” said Simon. “He took money from me. When the FBI were looking for him, they arrested me.”

He compromised my security! Scoundrel! How dare you???” asks the void, throwing it’s hand in the air, holding its head with the other.

But, Clifford, I forgave him long ago,” said Simon.

He takes the news-sheet back. The fireplace gives out a coughing fit sending white coal dust into the ray of light. Simon tears the newspaper into strips while the void stamps: fury without sound.

I was a Christian minister and a Buddhist monk. I am completely sure I practised forgiveness before you knew the meaning of the word!”

He tried his best with you, and your brothers. The notion of him in Tibet,” says Simon, “Well, it is just newspaper lies. You don’t want your mother to see that.” He scrunches the paper into balls.

Tibet, yes! That is the place I will go to now. I will guide it, help it build railways to other realms, and reclaim my status ushering in a future universe of equal rights for all people!!”

In the stomach of the fireplace, the newspaper flickers slowly into flakes of rising ash which fall at the big feet of the void creature.

T o T i b e t!!” it exclaims.

The void disperses into silver grey molecules, floating between sun-ray and dust, and then settling on the carpet.

Four thousand, two hundred and fifty two miles away above the city of Shigatse, monks walk the walls of Tashi Lhunpo. The gilded turrets and canopies are charged by the sun. The delicately painted Thanka wall stands on a hill over the temple, in blue sky. A moment later, there is a black dot in the heavens, a lone aeroplane shaped dot.

#

 

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Chapter 48

Image Source: Tri Relbachen, one of famous 3 dharma kings of Tibet (Aug 3, 2015) The Off:
About Best Himalayan Adventures. Retrieved online June 1st, 2018 at
http://theoff.info/Adventure-Travel/himalayas/himachal-pradesh/tri-relbachen-one-offamous-
3-dharma-kings-of-tibet/

Wednesday 5 February, 1941
German Consulate, Shanghai.

Martin Fischer is a family man. A pastor’s son with a Norwegian wife and three children. For thirty years he served as German Consul at Beijing and Mukden. On joining the Nazi Party in ‘37 he’s transferred to Shanghai. Ribbentrop trusts Fischer, but more and more the Wilhelmstrasse Office pushes him to take a hard-line. Fischer is the conduit when the Japanese are asked to restrict immigration; to treat enemy nationals as such; when Nazi reach is to be extended with a local HQ and propaganda bureau. Fischer cannot prevent the influx of party members to consular services. They weaken co-ordination of German political affairs in China. Men like Louis Siefkin, who use diplomatic cover for intelligence gathering.

Siefkin’s Abwehr spy ring brings the embassy a procession of callers. Staff must deal with boat-spotters, librarians, crooks and couriers. There are engineers and announcers for the half dozen radio stations run from the back room. The best, XGRS, supplies China with news-casts, commentaries and sketches in six different languages. XGRS is the pet project of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, so Fischer tows the line. SS and Abwehr operations are required to be kept apart from the Foreign Office. Conversely, protocol requires consul staff must read all incoming and outgoing messages. Siefkin infuriates them by using his own personal code. When the Abwehr in Berlin ask for more details of Siefkin’s meeting with Chaokung, Fischer makes sure to hunt down the original transcript.

A mutual friend, Mr. Erben, suggested I meet you,” said Siefkin. “And Flicksteger at XGRS. He said you had ideas of travelling to Tibet, to bring that country under German influence. What qualifications place you as a person fit for that task?”

Fischer remembered the Abbot in the hall that morning: the physical attributes of a vulture inside a death black cloak; a gliding spectre disappearing behind Siefkin’s door.

For many years,” said Chaokung, “I have been a member of the Grand Council of Lamas who possess special influence in India and Tibet. Captain Siefkin: this is my proposal. Tashilumpo, to the south of Tibet, is the seat of the Panchen Lama. Also an area of anti-British sentiment. It is perfect for transmitting XGRS into India.”

Reading the transcript Fischer didn’t chuckle. On one hand he knew Chaokung was an unreliable charlatan. On the other hand, his pitch hit key aims Siefkin and the Abwehr had long desired.

I think it would work,” said Chaokung. “I foresee myself going there, accompanied by a General Staff officer, an aviation expert, a wireless operator, a courier and the transmitter. We might go via Kabul, or, I am willing to go and meet them in Berlin.”

Siefkin was a broad-shouldered man with a tanned, stout face. Silently, he considered the Abbot’s idea. A workaholic, Siefkin was permanently frustrated, but this had merit.

What do you know of India?” he asked.

A great deal. For example, Sahay the nationalist leader, is in Shanghai this very week. Well, he could be directly influenced! If Germany was to back the movement for independence, why, a great many advisors could be sent to them. They could be directed in military and aviation tactics; trained to use the equipment!!”

What would you get? What is your interest?” asked Siefkin.

The adventure of visiting Tibet. An important role in unfolding matters. Revenge on Britain. Apart from travel and living expenses, I have no financial demands.”

A green-eyed coarse-faced thug looked at the date: four months after Siefkin’s report.

Josef Meisinger was a large, bald, perpetually grinning and ugly man. His callousness was cemented when over two years in Poland’s Kampinos Forest he ordered the mass shootings of 1,700 people. From there he went to Tokyo, acting as Gestapo liason for the embassy, and now he was the new military police attaché at Shanghai embassy. Meisinger intended to round up and kill Soviet spies while in the city. He drank hard and talked often. His brutality threw everyone’s nose out of joint. In his first week, he pressed Japanese commanders to exterminate the German and Austrian Jews living in Shanghai. They expressed their disgust to Fischer. Subsequently, Fischer forgot all about Siefkin.

He dare not challenge Meisinger. The Butcher of Warsaw instilled fear in whomever was around, though Chaokung seemed to be an exception. They met during Meisinger’s second week, arranged again by Siefkin’s man Hermann Erben. Erben had been monitoring the port and interviewing sailors, and assured them he had known the Abbot some time.

Thank you for agreeing to see me, Colonel. I wondered about the lack of response after my previous visits,” said the monk.

Meisinger said, “Simple protocol. Or just protocol run by simpletons.” He cast a glance over at Fischer. “Consul Fischer asked to sit in and observe this meeting. I consented to this request.”

Of course. I am glad to have you here, Consul Fischer.”

Meisinger said, “I have read the file on the ‘Radio Tibet’ proposal. Tell me what you told Siefkin.”

Chaokung rattled off the XGRS proposal as Fischer sat quietly. He did not speak at all in the meeting; did not like working closely with Meisinger. Only the chirpy sound of the Abbot’s voice kept him from being sick; kept him from passing out, for while they talked Fischer’s skin was clammy and eyes watering. Initially he wasn’t aware he was zoning out. Then he jolted out sharply from the black of sleep.

Fischer! Maybe you need to lie down! Show some discipline,” Meisinger said.

He apologised, and Meisinger told Chaokung to continue. Chaokung said he would recommend Fischer a qualified teacher in meditation, and Meisinger laughed.

I understand that spiritualism plays a large part in German life,” continued Chaokung. “That Police Chief Himmler sees the SS as a modern day version of the Teutonic Knights. The SS lightning bolt symbol is derived from runes, the sun, and victory.”

It is in honour to our ancestors, and the purity of our race,” said Meisinger.

Yes, Colonel. These ideas are old, and mystical. Knowledge rooted in the occult, understood by a privileged few.”

Fischer’s ears perked up. Chaokung seemed to be directing Meisinger along an unusual road.

The solstices, winter and summer, for example. The practices around these events form the rough drafts of the new German baptismal and funeral rites. Deputy Hess is a champion of astrology, seers, mediums and the like. I am told the Fuhrer believes in these ancient powers: do you, Colonel?”

If these primal sources wish to decontaminate the earth of Jews, cripples, homosexualists, then yes. Cut the weakness off at its head!”

I am glad your mind is open to this, sir, and here is why. I have been employed by the sages of Tibet to bring a message. The sages commune with a spirit world government. They cannot be seen by the untrained human eye. I was told to tell you that the time is ripe for Germany to make peace.”

There was not a shred of suspicion on Meisinger’s brutal face. The Abbot, Fischer noticed, was also completely convinced of himself.

I have been authorised by my Tibetan Masters to take the necessary steps. To that end, I wish to travel to Berlin as soon as possible for a meeting with the Fuhrer.”

What evidence can you offer? If your claims are correct, how can you persuade Hitler to see you?” asked Meisinger.

There was a certainty the Abbot conjured with his hands, his voice; as if some ethereal force was sparking to life in the room. He gestured to their seating arrangement.

We would sit, like you and I do now. Just the two of us: there are some things that need to be secret; I would reveal to him these divine ways. Hidden knowledge and ritual for recognising these immortal energies.”

He looked deep into Meisinger’s soul, as if Fischer was not in the room, and then gestured to the back wall. “Then… when our world and the spirit worlds align, they will show themselves!”

He swept his arm inward. “Three of the Wise Men of Tibet will appear through the wall. To the Fuhrer they will repeat the message I have conveyed. They will give to him many other essential revelations. This will be the best proof to provide Hitler. Proof of the supernatural power at the disposal of the Supreme Initiates!”

That evening, Rudolf Hess climbed up to his Messerschmitt bomber and took a final look back across Augsburg-Haunnstetten airfield. Back to his Bavarian home where he’d laid his provisions in the case on his bed: maps, goggles, a torch, dextrose tablets and two vials of sacred liquid from the Panchen Lama. One last look before he climbed inside the cockpit and turned the key in the ignition.

The Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was the Nazi leader all other Nazi leaders hated. He fought with Heydrich and Himmler particularly, over matters of foreign intelligence and police attachés.. He’d acquired his position through marrying money, pushing people around and always saying what Hitler wanted to hear. His pale eyes were the bottom of a toadstool forehead, the top a slithering silver hairpiece. At his office in Berlin’s Wilhelmstrasse, he paid particular attention to Cable 117: Meisinger’s endorsement of Chaokung as a particularly authoritative Tibetan voice. So important, wrote Meisinger, that Berlin ought to personally invite him there to launch his plan. Fixed to the bottom of the message was Cable 118, marked ‘secret – for the Foreign Office only’. Therein Consul Fischer laid bare the truth of Trebitsch Lincoln: a political adventurer whose Tibetan qualifications were a sham. He wished only to be politically important and even had approached Roosevelt. The ice in Ribbentrop’s eyes melted into red. His forehead wrinkled into jaws with the indignity. He called in Luther, his hatchet man and aide, to compose a reply to Fischer. He would inform Meisinger a precondition of his work at the embassy was to deal only with police work. He was not entitled to report on or deal in Foreign Office matters. When Luther had transcribed the note, Meisinger said he had another job for him.

It was two days later at Police HQ, where Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler was struggling. On top of his usual workload he was compiling data for ‘Aktion Hess’, the planned arrest of hundreds of astrologers, faith healers and occultists. Many of Himmler’s own friends would be on the list. He and Hess had recommended them to Hitler already.

Himmler gave the dossier a rest and dealt with the newly arrived telegram from the Foreign Office. Ribbentrop had forwarded a copy of Meisinger’s Cable 117. As he read it a drop of sweat trickled down Himmler’s chin and pounced on the page. The evidence of Meisinger’s indiscretion was akin to a mob warning: another of Ribbentrop’s power plays happening. There was a knock at the door. Himmler jumped but it was Heydrich, his trusted Chief of Security. Yet Heydrich was pale. He had a letter, sent a letter by Luther. Himmler took it from him and read it over. Luther was also loyal to Himmler, so he hoped for the best, expected the blow to be cushioned. It was not.

By explicit instruction of the Foreign Minister, Heydrich had been advised Lincoln was by birth a Hungarian Jew with insignificant credentials. Meisinger was to be firmly instructed by his his superiors in the Reich criminal Police not to step beyond the boundaries of his job. The Foreign Office outlined that the same applied to the rest of the Abwehr and SS. Politically, Heydrich and Himmler had just both been given a serious bollocking.

A few mornings later, Consul Fischer entered the embassy to the sound of Meisinger swearing. His journey to his office took him closer to the source: The Butcher shoving Louis Siefkin against the wall, twice: arschloch! Flick dich! Bloder dummer Fickkopf! Meisinger smacked Siefkin about the head with a sheet of paper and Fischer whistled as he passed.

By the end of the day, Meisinger’s response to Ribbentrop went through the prescribed service channel, namely Fischer’s office. The language was all defensive: he had only met with ‘T’ in relation to a complaint; the declarations were made on T’s own initiative; he told ‘T’ he had no authority but would relay the proposal to Berlin. Fischer remembered Meisinger grabbing Siefkin’s head in his hand, and decided he would guard his own flank. He wrote another classified shadow telegram for Ribbentrop under Meisinger’s. It coolly stating he’d not interviewed ‘T’ himself. However, Fischer was aware the Hungarian had been invited to the embassy in February by members of the Abwehr.

Outside he could hear Meisinger screaming at Siefkin again. This was over the afternoon’s mail from Heydrich to Meisinger, which Fischer also had the pleasure of seeing. Police Chief Heydrich threatened disciplinary action: surely Meisinger realised the man was a Jew! As Siefkin’s head banged off the wall, Fischer used the noise as cover for a good laugh.

A little over a year later, the Trebitsch incident cost both Louis Siefkin and Hermann Erben their jobs. Japanese command refused to build Meisinger’s concentration camp. Instead, he continued to ferret out Soviet spies in Shanghai, and spoke of the job to his drinking buddy Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy.

 

Drawn from over two hundred sources, including Bernard Wasserstein’s Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln. Brought to you by patreon.com/andyluke where you can read the full commentaries.

Chapter 47

Image Source: Map of China, from the CIA Factbook. Public domain. Retrieved online at

The Bund, Shanghai.
Saturday 18 January, 1936.

Under the tower clock and telephone wires Jacintha watched the ships come and go. Sweat trickled on her neck. Maurice borrowed a trolley from the Cathay to move the boxes. Jiahao, who had not left with Willem and Adeline, pushed it along the Bund. Left onto Nanking Road, left again: away from the Bird Market and Great World amusement centre. He swerved the cart from criss-crossing trams and rampaging rickshaws. They waited for the bus outside Park Hotel. All human life was in this city. Indian policemen watched mah-jong players for ivory gambling. Vietnamese in straw pointed hats spoke with French dealers of silk and cotton. An Italian merchant sat high behind household goods, his radio blaring Rudolf Hess’s speech. There were so many stations to choose from and the city seemed to sound them all. In minutes, the Thomas Cook motor bus arrived and they heaved the trolley on board. The ride quickly passed Jing’An Temple. It went far out to Avenue Joffre and further, through the Badlands. The driver stopped for them on Yu Yuen Road: hamburger and corn beef smells from the Hungaria. The restaurant’s aged proprietor, Stella Szirmay, stood at the entrance in a low cut top, greeting ugly Dr. Miorini and his spouse, Ruby Edwards. Jacintha led the monks on into the Book Mart next door. It was a shop full of new age literature and nazi tracts. The ‘Countess’ thumbed the League of Truth books and prepared their receipt. While Jacintha waited, she made the decision to return home to Singapore.

Chaokung glanced to the upper floors of the Glen Line Building: the German embassy. Only twice since Lincoln M.P.’s appendix was removed did the pain hit: on learning of Stephani’s assassination plot, and when incarcerated in Vienna. Quickly, he looked back to the twenty-five miles of wharf. Back to smoke-stacks of bobbing steamers on the Whangpoo’s brown-blue water. The pain subsided, was soon forgotten as he and Margot walked the harbour. Each day he took a different acolyte and they’d look over the boats for sale. It was six months since Hertha’s suicide. His plan was to take them for a leisurely getaway to Madeira Island, south-west of Portugal. He’d read of breathtaking sea cliffs and tiny villages by mouths of ravines. The Mediterranean climate would be good for their health. A hundred foot floating monastery, would manifest his dreams so perfectly: at least until they reached Tibet. He could see it all, beyond the Yellow Sea. All the opportunity. In South Africa, the largest diamonds. Mexico’s revolutionary new President. America’s tribes self-governing their reservations. The sellers were interested in his idea: he’d already found a captain for ‘The Ark’. Margot was silent during each conversation about credit lines and financial backers. They wanted several hundred dollars in advance; money she knew they didn’t have.

He turned his back on the harbour that let the world pollute China. A world of Donald Duck and Monopoly; of Shirley Temple On The Good Ship Lollipop. Bauer’s legacy was a Germany re-arming, growling at it’s own tail. Himmler and Heydrich’s SS murdered their own: Kapp Putschist Gustav von Kahr; White Internationalist Ernst Rohm. Mussolini invaded Abyssinia, and infuriated MacDonald and Laval. Bonnie and Clyde were dead, Elgar too. There was nothing out there anyway, thought Chaokung.

They took the train along the coast seven hundred miles northeast, to Tientsin. The League of Truth worshipped at Dabei Temple on Tianwei Road. Like Shanghai there were European settlements and an Anglo-American concession. In the Japanese area they found Shoukei Chogen, a calligrapher who brought new funds but was antagonistic with Jiahao. Chogen regarded the Chinese as a sub-species. At sunrise, they gathered around the Future Buddha in Dabei’s Grand Hall, the statues of the Four Heavenly Kings on each side. They prayed by ancient statues of bronze, iron, wood and stone. In the afternoons Chao led them on walks through the Jewish Cemetery, or to the hilltops for mountain views; teasers for Tibet. Or they sat at the benches on the waterfront and watched the ships. In the evenings they returned to the Buddhist House on the corner of Poppe Road and Romanoff Avenue. They were watched by British agents who scrutinised Chaokung’s meetings with Soviets, and reported back to Whitehall. Meanwhile, Chaokung wrote a new book, ‘Dawn or Doom of Humanity’. Over two hundred and fifty pages he expounded the principles of good government, free press, education, national defence and foreign politics. In each case man had a choice to make: embrace the ultimate potential of humankind; or sink into a deep, degrading abyss which threatened all life on Earth. He appealed to readers to cast off false labels of nationality. Yet he failed to intervene in the bullying of Jiahao. Failed to tell Chogen to recognise their shared humanity.

Mid-May 1937, and the dark prophecies of ‘Dawn or Doom’ appear in bookstores. Early June, the Second Sino-Japanese War begins. At the end of the month, the Japanese navy takes out Tientsin’s forts and aircraft. The city falls quickly to three thousand soldiers, though the foreign concessions are left alone. In August, the occupying forces travel seventy miles to suppress Chinese militia, leaving a skeleton staff of a hundred. From the cornfields, rebels machine gun the barracks. Their bodies are burned by four Japanese bomber planes, first of the vicious reinforcements. Chaokung keeps his monks indoors. Jiahao, ready to abscond, finds he is penned in. Reports have come from Shanghai: unbelievable stories of thousands massacred in city-wide bombardment. He’s sceptical, until he sees the photo. The lone baby crying in the smoking debris of Shanghai Station, ‘Bloody Saturday’, is printed in papers around the world. Weeks later a typhoon, among the worst in Hong Kong’s history, claims eleven thousand lives.

William, the First Baron Tyrrell, signs the visitors book. His Foreign Office replacement, Vansittart, meets him in the hall. Socialising usually takes place at the club, but Vansittart is up to his eyes in it. Tyrrell, now seventy-one, is confident he isn’t going to be put to work. Behind the door they hear loud cursing. The impossible man! Cause of all migraines! Vansittart opens up quickly and dresses down his civil servant. Andrew Scott apologises, but Trebitsch Lincoln; again! Tyrrell empathises; chuckles; feels an anger of three decades here. After Whitehall, Tyrrell went to Paris as their Ambassador, and found Trebitsch staring out at him from a Buddhist lecture poster. No sooner had he returned to Britain than Trebitsch arrived at Liverpool docks. He’d assumed, three years later, he was free of the annoyance.

You’re William Tyrrell aren’t you?” asked Andrew. “Look at this. Jan 7th, 1934: Telegram to George V. ‘Wholly wanton imprisonment in provocative insult challenge to China!’ What?? 28th June, Alexander Cadogan in Peking: ‘Please, I hope the British Empire and I will reconcile.’ Miles Lampson in Shanghai the following year: more nonsense!”

I hardly see what I can do about any of it,” quipped Tyrrell.

This Summer: to the P.M. ‘I am a victim of a diabolical vendetta waged by your government’s machinations. I demand honourable amends for all the wrongs perpetrated against me.’”

Mr. Scott, that is enough,” said Vansittart. “Baron Tyrrell doesn’t want to hear any of this!”

From Scott’s desk, Tyrrell picked up, ‘Anti-Japanese Propaganda’, a new pamphlet from The League of Truth. “I quite understand Mr. Scott’s exasperation… Listen to this. ‘As a resident of Tientsin I declare: I have never seen a better behaved Army of Occupation than the Japanese. They molest nobody, interfere with no lawful occupation…’” Tyrrell dropped the pamphlet back onto the desk.

Japanese propaganda, more like,” said Vansittart. “Let’s get out of here, William. I’ll buy lunch.”

They were gone, without Andrew Scott gleaning any advice from Tyrrell. He read on: of Chaokung’s description of the New Japanese Empire: just, tolerant, and peaceful. Then, he recorded his last minute on the last page of the Trebitsch Lincoln file.

I think the only comment I can make on this is !!!’

Weeks after the fall of Shanghai, reports came from the West the Panchen Lama had died. The leader of Tibetan Buddhism had gone. The same day the aggressors set out for Nanking on killing competitions, transmitting plagues of death-by-rape, two to three hundred thousand people murdered in six weeks. A month later the heartless Japanese warriors bombed Chongqing, turning the brown Yangtze red. From America, Roosevelt excuses Hirohito over Americans killed in Shanghai. Chamberlain appeases Hitler over Czechoslovakia. Global forces converge in Spain as Franco leads massacres in Guernica and Brunete. In Hungary, Regent Miklós Horthy tries to distance his government from pro-German co-operation, set up by his late Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös. Joachim von Ribbentrop and Martin Luther of the German Foreign Office notify Horthy they are not happy about this. At the end of May 1938, Gömbös’s successor passes The First Jewish Law: millions of Jews are restricted from marriage and employment. Sandor Trebitsch has every reason to be worried when a few weeks later a skinhead in black cloak shows up at his door. She introduces herself as Tao Lo, Margot Markuse, a disciple of Chaokung. Sandor has no idea who she’s talking about. When he reads her letter of introduction he’s less pleased. Krausz comes around that evening and Sandor warms to her. They subject her to such quizzing, allowing her to stay seems only polite.

The following day she walks to the Royal Palace, and again twice that week. Unable to get a meeting she leaves a signed copy of ‘Dawn or Doom’, dedicated to Regent Horthy, and a note from Tientsin.

Tortured by nostalgia, broken of body and soul, a tired wanderer on this earth returns to his native soil. The path of glory and success is paved but with sorrow and grief until one rests at the place of his birth.’

Local and international papers want to learn Margot’s story and she impresses many readers with her intelligence. Still, the weeks pass without word from the Royal Court. Sandor tires of her love for Chaokung and tells her all about Ignacz Trebitsch. Finally, Regent Horthy sends a man to fetch her. At that moment, she’s on a train pulling out of Budapest-Keleti. Margot Markuse does not return to China.

The Tientsin escalation drives Chaokung, Maurice and Chogun back to Shanghai, port of last resort. Labourers fill craters were once stood the Palace Hotel; the Wing On department store; the Great World amusement centre. Sassoon House is boarded up and the Cathay Hotel lobby is only boards. A bomb had frozen the hands on her clock tower at 4:27. The rising violence does not spare the respectable Cathay. One day, they see a gun battle break out in front, spitting balls of blood. In the past year, say members of the Buddhist Benevolent Society, they picked eighteen thousand cadavers from the streets. Chinese gangsters still move the opium, but a nastier Japanese strain that boils into blood. On Chaokung’s sixtieth birthday, everywhere he walks he sees beggars with festering sores and eye infections. The monks are anomalies: fixed stoic features in a stream of diverse identities; almost. Chaokung claims to be the tenth Panchen Lama; to another, the reincarnated (fourteenth) Dalai Lama; to another, the Lama Dorji Den.

Shanghai feels the coming war and defies it, taking in boat-loads of Jews Canada and Cuba will not. Japanese barricades are around each foreign concession; checkpoints everywhere. The Germans, once slow to Nazism, are pushed to become fully fledged party members. Consul Martin Fischer strongly resents Goebbels’ new posting, Louis Siefkin. From the consulate, Siefkin transmits the speeches of Hitler and Hess to six Shanghai public radio frequencies. Above the houses of the International Settlement, national flags rise like some great pissing contest. Chaokung has Maurice deliver a press release: a universal appeal for world peace. A few days later the Abbot’s bowels are a disaster zone. Through the night he burns on the toilet in excremeditation. In the morning he learns the Third Reich have invaded Poland. After sleep his pain has gone, but the problem has not. Shanghai sees little evidence of the war in the months coming up to Christmas. The New York Times publish his second appeal: all governments of warring European countries must resign at once. On New Year’s Day Franklin D. Roosevelt pleads for world peace. The Abbot tells the United Press he is going to America to meet with him. He says goodbye to Chogen, to Maurice; to Baron Collenberg and Walter Fuchs; to Baroness Soucanton and Lo Chia-Ling. He says goodbye to Dr. Miorini and Two-Gun Cohen; Mickey Hahn and Stella Szirmay. He says goodbye to Shanghai, whose light is dying. The press gather around as he tells them he has been denied a visa, and that the American bureaucrats are stupid, stupid people, but they are tired. Tired of his old rants of turncoats and treachery. Tired with Trebitsch Lincoln, whose international vaudeville act has had its day.

 

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Chapter 46

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Kobe Police Station, Japan.
Sunday 13 May, 1934

Beyond Hyogo Port, a weary-eyed keisatsu officer sits at a table in a bare lit cell. Matsumoto, a senior in his department, transcribes with the energy of youth. Without looking up to the Frenchman, he asks another question.

What did you do then, Mr. Chauve?”

Went straight to my wife, of course.”

Marie?”

Most of them were still in prayer. Eyes down.”

Henri stormed decisively into the boat’s lounge.

Marie? Come,” said Henri.

What is it?”

We’re going.”

Are you sure?”

Absolutely. Get your bags.”

What’s going on?” asked Escoffier.

I caught – that man…”

Escoffier, Jiahao, Willem Jansen: they all knew there was trouble.”

He is no Abbot. Let’s go,” said Henri.

Oh God, not again,” said Escoffier.

Juliet?” asked Marie.

Martin Steinke had very good reasons for leaving,” said Escoffier.

What?” asked Willem.

If any of you are serious about this you’ll leave him when we get off at Kobe,” I told them.

That’s when HE arrived.”

Everyone, return to prayer. Mr. Chauve, come with me,” said Chaokung.

I think not.”

Oh you will. You see that was not a request.”

You ought to be ashamed of yourself. We are going.”

Mister Chauve!”

Jiahao, I will handle this!” said Chaokung.

I caught this impostor and HER – she can’t even look at me.”

Henri, don’t,” said Marie. “She’s been through enough.”

Escoffier said, “Well, that settles it!”

Even Adeline was ruffled,” Henri told the keisatsu. “’Alright, Alright,’” I said, “but taking advantage of that young nun like he did!”

Matsumoto gestured Chaokung to sit. He opened the folder and stroked his goatee.

Madame Escoffier told me one or two interesting things, Abbot. There was an argument…”

No. Escoffier and the Chauve couple attempted a mutiny. I sent them to their cabins.”

Tell me about the argument.”

It is not important.”

Very well. If you wish to hide the facts.”

I have nothing to hide, Corporal.”

It’s Sergeant.”

I did not think you were interested in the role and function of a Bodhisattva. Nor how an Abbot ensures his novices observe their Mahayana vows in silence. That look! That look! It is the look I gave them. Well, Mr. Chauve, I told him. ‘You will spend the next two hours alone, deliberating on this bad example.’”

No. You shall,” said Henri. “I am in charge now! You are to fast for the rest of the week.”

Henri, you sound like a fanatic,” said Adeline.

Why did Steinke leave then?” said Escoffier.

Steinke was ego-obsessed,” said Margot.

Silence is for cowards,” said Escoffier. “I’ll talk as much as I like. Be gone Trebitsch Lincoln!”

What is this? Where is the practice of love and fellowship which I taught you?” I asked them. “Outside the sun is shining in the sky…”

Willem, Jiahao. Wouldn’t you both like to go out on deck for a cigarette?” asked Marie.

This is such wicked folly,” said Margot.

I regret it has come to this. I have to ask the three of you to leave.”

Thank you, Abbot,” said Willem.

Hertha said, “This is good. I am happy where I am.”

Then we will take back what we brought with us. The money and the blankets!” said Henri.

I laughed. “You know these are long gone.”

You owe us!”

I am not a banker,” I told them. “I cannot keep track of all business in the last year.”

Henri, don’t be silly. He barely has our travel costs,” said Adeline.

Liar! You’re all liars!” said Marie.

Escoffier said, “He is full of” unmentionable curses.

Give the money to me or I will punch you out cold and bloody,” Henri said.

Sergeant Matsumoto. I did my best to cool their tempers before persuading them to go. I had excommunicated them. I cannot be held responsible for slanderous remarks made to you after the fact. They are illiterate, and lazy, and I am glad to be rid of them.”

They spent the next year in Shanghai. Chaokung lodged at Astor Hotel on Soochow Creek, and the Burlington, both near the Buddhist House. The Astor was ideal until he found his room backed onto a brothel on Taydong Road. It was run by Eugene Pick, a friend of the British envoy, Miles Lampson. From there took his people to the neighbouring province of Chekiang.

It was said the goddess Nuwa cut the legs off a giant sea turtle to prop up the sky; that Tiantai Mountain was on the creature’s back when she moved it. The whole area was filled with imposing rock obelisks and explosions of greenery between the temples. The largest of these was Guoqing, favoured by diplomats. There was also Ji Gong, named after the mad monk, and Tiantai Shan, which devoted itself to the harmonisation of teachings. Contact between them was rare however. Tiantai was often drenched by plum rains, sleet or the edges of typhoons.

Chaokung’s pilgrims were joined by Jacintha Megat, thirty-five, of Singapore-Malaysian heritage. Jacintha valued courtesy and coolness. This was not her first Buddhist colony. Chaokung hoped she might bring her own contacts to study under him. Willem’s insolence necessitated a demotion, and he’d also considered suspending Hertha. He could do neither. Their chief tasks were the release of two magazines, ‘Nirvana’ and ‘Aurora’, and a book, ‘The Human Tragedy.’ It was released to a small audience. A copy was sent to York with the inscription, ‘To B. Seebohm Rowntree, with grateful memories’. Chaokung published these under the name, ‘The League of Truth’. The League stood, ‘For TRUTH, JUSTICE, KINDNESS. Against LIES, INJUSTICE, HATRED; EVERYWHERE, AND IN EVERYTHING.’ An inverted swastika appeared over two hemispheres on his business cards, and on all the League’s publications.

From April to mid-July the monks set their minds to the extensive instruction in the Lotus Sutra. By rote, they copied out the Threefold Truth of the emptiness of self-nature, existing provisionally with worldliness, and both at once. The Three Contemplations gave life, breath, and punishment, in a gruelling learning routine. The church hall, the cells, food and clothes were scrubbed in ongoing battle with Tiantai’s high humidity. Adeline, whose eyesight was failing, worked her way through the Fourfold Teachings; and the Eight Teachings of Four Doctrines of different levels; and Four Methods, for different audiences, and she felt her wrist might literally snap off. The tips of her index finger and thumb were depressed on cracking skin, and the mid-way indent was blister red. She could not hold the pain inside her. Chaokung, working on his next book, did not need to listen to her whines.

Willem was not told what Adeline had done, but he knew strict discipline under Chaokung too well. As a train engineer in Amsterdam, and later in Mukden (before the bombing), he’d seen closely a workaholic boss’s routine, and the fall-out on the minds and bodies of labourers. Young Hertha in particular was deteriorating. She went from moments of great excitation to muffled sobbing in her cell. She was mostly bone. He’d spoken to the Abbot about her diet but the time was taken up convincing him it wasn’t a personal attack. Hertha said he worried about nothing: she’d be fine; everything was rosy; she was safe from any gluttony!

When the July sun was in the sky there were scenic views of the China Sea, Phoenix Mountain and West Lake. The Qiantang River dipped over pebbles and ran currents deep out to Hangzhou Bay. Hertha worked her way through the twenty-seven chapters of the Lotus Sutra. Understanding the immortal aspects of the Buddha; the three-as-part-of-one nature of the Great Vehicle,; these things were necessary in the age of Dharma decline. They read and wrote in silence for nearly five hours. At that point, the high pollen count caught up with Hertha and she shattered the air with a sneeze.

She didn’t go without protest. The Abbot used people, she said. He was domineering and cruel. A hypocrite, and she spat at his feet. With these words the outside bolt was slid across her cell door. She was denied supper, and cried as night fell in storm winds.

She was still crying the following evening when the rain took over the sunset. Jiahao heard the tears on his way to Adeline’s door. He struggled against the gales which kept the old woman inside. Her head was bulbous, and the clothes hung off her: she could barely stand.

His Holiness says you have earned redemption by showing the proper conduct,” said Jiahao.

Help me up then. Good lad. We are going to the dining hall,” said Adeline.

Yes.”

It wasn’t a question. This weather is horrible. And the sound of it!”

Yes. Watch your step. I have you.”

My God. That’s not the wind. Is that…?”

The Master put Tao Ta in solitary yesterday.”

Hertha? Oh my… she hasn’t been looking well… Oh, it’s stopped.”

I think the wind has changed direction. Here we are, Miss Hill.”

Thank you… the poor girl. Mr. Tang, would you look in on her?”

The Venerable One has forbidden her visitors.”

Just look in on her. I will tell the Abbot you are securing one of the doors.”

Wet pelts in gusts threw cold at the Chinaman’s head. It rattled the bar on Hertha’s cell door. There was a high window at the side. He knew he would see nothing through it. Jiahao saw a rope. He slid through the mud and caught the handle. The winds let out a glimpse of legs. He got inside, wrapped arms tight round her, pushed up. The door slammed in the darkness. He tried to lift her onto his shoulders. The door flung wide open to moonlight and her head nodded down at him from the noose. Somebody get here, somebody help; he repeated it over and over as he wrestled. In minutes, Willem was beside him, lifting her up, but she was already cold.

Willem sent Maurice to fetch the police, while Chaokung instructed them not to go near the body. They arrived an hour later. There were only two men. They would not take the body out that night. After examining the cell, they took Chaokung’s statement while the others waited.

They don’t even want to hear what we have to say,” snapped Willem.

This is a great tragedy,” said Margot.

It should not have happened,” said Adeline.

It’s his fault. That bastard.”

Willem!” cried Maurice.

There’s no need for that,” said Jacintha.

I won’t let this continue. He’s crossed the line.”

We are all upset,” said Margot. “But what can we do?”

The thing to do is approach this calmly, with meditation and prayer,” said Jacintha.

Oh mind your own business,” said Adeline. “You silly girl.”

The police are leaving,” said Maurice.

We will go on hunger strike,” said Jiahao. “Out of memory of Hertha. In opposition to ill treatment.”

That would be drastic,” said Maurice.

But it would mean something,” said Adeline.

Agreed. If we are united he will seriously reconsider how things are done,” said Willem.

No. We must be focussed on a return to normalcy: to study; focussed; away from negativity,” said Margot.

Willem, our vows forbid us from speaking out against the Abbot,” said Maurice.

Something was ripped from its moorings in the black skies then. Thunder. Crushed space and time. Heavier raindrops pushed their heads. Chaokung was walking up the hill toward them.

Surely you can see his behaviour is the cause of all this?” said Willem.

Margot threw his words back at him. “I heard this all on the voyage from England. We are devoted to peace! A hunger strike, Adeline, really? At your age?

That would be very foolish in light of that we have all endured,” said Chaokung. “We shall eat. And get a good night’s sleep: and talk more about this tragedy in the morning.”

No. There are matters that need to be addressed now,” said Willem.

You are wrong. We need our strength. Now, the food has already been prepared. For all those who want it, follow me.”

Willem, Adeline and Jiahao did not follow. In the morning they did not touch their plates. Chaokung reminded everyone of the sin of wasting food. By midday the hunger-strikers were denied admission to the lunch hall. From then on, they were two separate camps exchanging looks of disappointment. Chaokung encouraged prayers for Hertha’s soul and reminded them, despite the tragedy, it was her decision and no-one was to blame. In the central quad the breakaway group ignored his instructions to observe a silence. They drew plans for a shrine to her memory, and read from scripture on health. They talked about continuing the fast there at Tiantai Shan. If the Abbot punished them, or refused to compromise, they would take it to the city.

While Jacintha and Maurice prayed, Chaokung rearranged the dining area so empty spaces would be less noticeable. Margot chopped onions, leeks and garlic, their scents wafting across the room. Meals were eaten from six oryoki bowls of different sizes. Chaokung stood for a moment with the zuhatsu, the largest of them, representing the Buddha.

Once they finished dinner, stuck food was scraped, hot water added, and the remains were drank. Leaving his bowl to be dried by Maurice, Chaokung went immediately out into the quad.

I waited for you at the table. You wanted to talk when it suited you and only then.” he said.

What that poor girl went through was a sin,” said Adeline. “Do not think I did not hear.”

You are running a house built on punishment. Yet you know the way of the Buddha is love. We must face what has happened,” said Willem.

I see. Now you will listen to me. This must end at once. You will not undermine our efforts. Return to the community. No more will be spoken about it. Or go, taking your shame with you. Go and never darken our door. The choice is yours. What will it be?”

Chapter 45

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Sunday 6 May, 1934.
Duchess of York, North Atlantic Ocean.

Marie counted the hours since Ottawa, to the minute, to carry out his command. Walking to the cabin she was met by Steinke, his face white and full of shock. He pushed by her, avoided eye contact. They knew each other a year: he’d never lacked composure. She carried on to Room 427, knocked, then opened it. Adeline kneeled in prayer.

The Abbot says you can go now,” said Marie.

Good. I am better for the penance. I reaped the seeds I sowed.”

Oh, Adeline! Of course you did not!”

My poison tongue! I regret missing Ottawa, and the Prime Minister.”

We did not speak with him, only the Abbot did,” said Marie.

Is everything alright dear?” asked Adeline.

Did Mister Steinke come to see you today?”

Tao Chun?”

Suddenly Abbot Chaokung was upon them, out of breath and red faced. “MARIE!” he screamed.

I know, Abbot. I am sorry,” she said.

Be silent!”

The liner drifted into Gladstone Harbour. Passengers cluster at the stairwell. Mothers hush crying babies for the slow shuffle to land. They dock, and wait. A trickle of movement and then calls to back up. Four police officers climb the stairs.

The boat empties and they are led out: one constable in front, the other behind, two either side of the Abbot. Margot is weeping. Jiahao sees Hertha ready to faint and puts an arm out to steady her. Descending the gangplank, Escoffier spies a photographer, and turns her head away.

Chaokung pulls his arm from the officer’s grip. “You seem to be afraid of me, when it needs both of you to go with me!”

He is a Man of God!” said Willem. “This is completely inappropriate!”

They are led through a temporary walkway to a restricted access area, and their belongings searched. Then came the questioning and the long wait. Steinke was unusually silent, and with the Abbot separated the group descended into chaos.

Where have you taken him?” asked Margot.

Listen here. We are on a mission of peace,” said Henri.

The Abbot is a revered leader throughout the East. His teachings are known to millions,” said Willem.

Your Abbot is barred from Great Britain: standing order from 1919.”

He is not a spy!” said Willem. “Tell them, Steinke!”

Mister Steinke, what is the matter?” said Marie.

Are we under arrest?” asked Hertha.

Another officer entered then, a burly man with a cape of a moustache. “Thank you for your patience while we made enquiries, and I apologise for keeping you. You’re all free to disembark.”

What about the Abbot?” asked Jiahao.

Mr. Lincoln is being held in custody while the Home Office reviews the case. Constable, would you take these people through?”

They are led out onto Liverpool’s docklands, scrawks of gulls over the LMS train on the bridge. Ahead, policemen put Chaokung in a van. Margot breaks free of the others, and Hertha right after. The van circles round. Henri gives chase. Margot leaps onto the bonnet and Hertha dives for the door. The van swerves. Margot rolls onto the ground and Hertha holds on until it leaves her behind. She rolls in a ball of tears on the concrete.

Steinke and Escoffier were to find lodgings, but first paid for the others to go by train three miles through Bootle to Walton. The gatehouse was battered stone with turrets and the windows had angled shafts. Built in the 1850s, Walton was one of England’s largest prisons and the panopticon design let a few wardens watch many inmates. Chaokung is devoid of expression when they arrive. He is all business, laying down chores for each of them. Forbidden to give interviews, they would be his intermediaries: Adeline, in charge of taking his statements to the press; Henri: given the names of friends and a lawyer to contact.

We will stay here all week if need be,” said Hertha.

We are willing to go on hunger strike until they let you travel to London,” said Margot.

No you will not. The British press are not trustworthy. I do not want them to say you are being mistreated in any way.”

I will do nothing but that my master commands,” said Hertha.

Please forgive me,” said Margot. “Tao To suggested the idea, and I mistook it for your will.”

No, Tao Lo. It was posed only an example of what the Bodhisattva might ask. Instruction comes from Him alone.”

The hostel on Great George Square is an old sea-man’s mission. Named after the charitable philanthropist, David Lewis, it had recently expanded to a club including a sports hall, theatre and cinema. Inside the great Edwardian building they set down their luggage and meet around six. They eat their first meal of the day quietly. They find themselves in the common area after, no other guests.

This is the first time in months,” said Marie, “that I have relaxed. Henri, I am having doubts. About all of this.”

That is only natural,” he said.

We’ve worked sixteen hours, six days a week, for… a year?” she said.

These things are sent by God to challenge us,” said Adeline.

Henri we’ve barely spoken,” said Marie.

You’re right. And I have concerns too,” said Henri.

The Venerable One requires our support,” said Willem.

I will visit the Abbot every day,” said Hertha.

And I will not leave his side,” said Margot.

Love,” said Henri, “Let’s wait. Let’s give this another try.”

Maurice said, “Let’s take a train to Westminster and campaign for his release.”

That is a stupid idea,” said Adeline.

I agree,” said Escoffier.

It will do no good,” said Steinke. “In any case, we should not be beholden to him.”

How can you say that?” asked Jiahao.

I will not let his situation get in the way of our holy mission,” he replied.

Steinke goes to bed with no intention of visiting the Abbot. His blood is hot, his thoughts loud and confused. It is a long time since his mind had been this cluttered. Among it all he remembered Henri’s words to Marie: Give it another try. Perhaps this trip can be salvaged. With that seed planted, tears fall, and he dozes heavily.

Above the entrance of Walton Prison is a clock, with surrounding zig-zag mouldings. Martin Steinke stands over the visitor’s book. Among the guests the previous year are hangman Albert Pierrepoint, the nephew of Ignatius Lincoln’s executioner. The desk wardens speak to one another about the Home Office proposal. Steinke learns if Chao and the others take the evening sailing to Antwerp, the government will pay for their travel. ‘Trebitsch’ has flatly rejected the offer:, saying he will lecture four months in England, or return to the Far East.

Steinke awaits his turn, when Chao is done shouting at Hertha. He doesn’t need her around when work is to be done. Why can’t she be more like Tao Lo? Hertha avoids Steinke’s eyes, passes by with locked lips and folded arms.

When Steinke enters it is like a switch has been flicked: Chao’s mood is calm, perfectly untroubled. He forgives his assistant for not visiting. If the disciples have no business at the prison, they should to be confined to the hostel, and Steinke is asked to see that this is done. The routine of prayer and fasting should be maintained. Steinke says nothing during the meeting. His eyes narrow with anger. The Home Office proposal is not mentioned. A warden arrives at the door with news of another visitor. Chaokung instructs Steinke to go now. He has no more need of him today.

His youngest son, Clifford, has grown into a tall, handsome man, with colour in his cheeks. It is his twenty-third birthday, a frivolous earthly sentiment, therefore not remarked upon. Clifford talks about his new life in England. He’s seen Julius from time to time and written to John, who is still on Java trying to make a living. Chaokung nods, and tried again to open Clifford’s eyes to the life-changing opportunities of the Noble Eightfold Path. Several hours a day in prayer and meditation combined with abstinence from meat, fish and sugary foods would truly open his eyes to universal suffering and knowledge. He said his religion was supreme. He would go to Japan to rule as an Abbot.

The three shaved heads attract stares passing The Athenaeum club. A third of Liverpool are unemployed and the gutter journalists who get in their way are shown the way. Jiahao has never seen double-decker buses. Nor the dump wagons, bound for the Mersey and Queensway Tunnel. A tenement torn down the day before has grown into a housing block. There is darkness in the weight of the city’s stone. A plane roars overhead but cannot be seen and Jiahao tries to keep in step behind Willem. By the shops on curving Lord Street, Hertha has skipped ahead. She’s talking to a flapper outside the Adelphi, while Willem reads the listings. Jiahao cast around: the jewellers and bakery, the cobblers and coffee shops. Bikes move past, dapper men walk dogs. A couple meet with orange blossoms by Victoria. A paper seller hollers. Then Hertha, Willem by her arm, says they should all take in a film.

A huge crowd gathers at Gladstone Docks on Friday morning,: cameras on tripods; men with notebooks. The taxicab from Walton arrives and Hertha hugs him tightly. Chaokung meets with a donor from France and with his son, who knows he will probably never see his father again. The captain comes to see Chaokung and Steinke when they board. There is room in First Class, for no extra charge, to let them meditate without distraction. Chao thanks him, but their religion forbids them from living luxuriously. He walks to his disciples, in among the families shelving luggage and smokers talking about the horses. They set sail for Ottawa, but soon after the devotees are walking up and down the ship. Willem stays with the Abbot but he knows something is gravely wrong.

Where’s Steinke?” asked Henri.

I have not seen him since we boarded,” said Adeline.

We have looked everywhere,” said Jiahao.

The Abbot flattened down his robe. “This is of great sadness, that a brother has strayed. He has abandoned his duties, his siblings. We must pray for him.”

What has happened?” asked Willem.

His bags have gone,” said Margot.

Steinke did not look good all week,” said Escoffier.

That is enough,” he snapped. “Do not be seduced into following his wickedness. And do not speak unless spoken to.”

Chapter 44

Image Source: Pacific Press Ltd / Wasserstein, B. (1989) The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, Penguin.
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Great Western Road, Shanghai.
Friday 25 August, 1933.

The north-west suffered a devastating earthquake and armed conflict, but Shanghai had returned to a state of relative peace and sunny serenity. The door opened at Buddhist House, 131 Great Western Road. Martin Steinke, Marie Chauve and Hertha Henschel left, walking fifteen minutes to Jing’an Temple.

The Italians, Anthony and Giotto, studied under Adeline, a small stern Belgian nun with a fat head. Her icy exterior only breaks when Chaokung enters. He looks the manuscript over. Thirty years in the civil service has made her a polished communicator.

The pillars of a narrow hallway hold up two floors to blue sky. Adeline strolls the square by gargoyles the size of fingernails, and gryphons, big as houses. The shade of curving roofs and emerald lotus leaves give her pause to interrogate the self. From the kitchen there is a vegetable aroma and Maurice from Munich taking dishes from bamboo drainers. Adeline barks his name. Suddenly Juliet Escoffier flies past, pulling bowls from Maurice, putting them back. The mother sauces must be prepared first, she says. She comes from a family of gourmet chefs. Escoffier looks at Adeline as if she is responsible. Maurice apologises, and Escoffier suggests he brush the square.

Maurice C. Braus is thirty, with a ball shaped chin and dazed black eyebrows. The Latvian, Margot Markuse, wipes the steps in circular motions and does not see him passing. The married couple from Cannes bow. Henri and Marie rake the allotment soil on this, Henri’s fiftieth birthday. The expedition is much harder than they pictured yet gardening around the stone lions makes it all worthwhile. Marie is twelve years younger than Henri. They met after the war, when she became his first hire at the perfumery. Marie wooed him with her eye for art and renditions of show-tunes. Marie notices the Abbot watching them. Between the black cloak his face is thin, all bone and bulbous head. Marie’s friend, Hertha, the youngest, is at his side. There is to be no talk now for Chaokung sends Marie away.

He puts the tool in Hertha’s hands and guides her in direction and posture. A slow rake can make sure soil is not pushed onto the path, he says, taking her hands in his.

The summer furnace recedes, transforming into purple clouds at dusk.

Three months and three hundred kilometres by Tientsin-Pukow railway, they toil above Nanking. Damp Yangtze River rain sprinkles on the frost: on red maples at cave entrances; sixth century rock-cut shrines; golden gingkoes with fan shaped leaves.

Willem Jansen, the railway planner from Holland, knocks on the Abbot’s office. When called, he sees Martin Steinke counting the last donations. Chaokung puts his pen down and asks Willem to approach. The invite to the Confucian monks of Fuzimiao to come there, to Ch’i-hsia Chan Monastery, on Sunday, was positively received. The Soviet and French ambassadors will also be there, helped by their familiarity with Steinke’s writings. Steinke has protruding angular ears but does not seem to hear Willem. He’s fixed on the accounts. Their land is owned in perpetuity and so temple finances should be stable.

Willem is dismissed, and the Abbot and Steinke exchange books. Chaokung’s draft sermon uses Steinke’s writings on breathing and healing. It is barely in Steinke’s hands when Escoffier enters. She gives the Abbot an envelope bursting with yuan banknotes. Steinke is pleased his work will be shared however, it may not be appropriate to lecture the crowd on sexual desire. Escoffier agrees. The people do not want to hear all that. They do not want to be told what they can’t do, for their life is not for everyone. Very well, said Chao. He will bow to her wisdom in this matter.

Escoffier steps out to the path were the rain is now only an echo. She makes her way to the bathroom. On nearing the partitions anguished sobbing fills the air. Young Hertha’s face streams with blood from cut hair, razor trembling in her hand.

At Ch’i-hsia Chan they rose before the dawn, sitting cross-legged reciting vows. At seven they washed, then ate. Before lunch they studied The Sublime One’s holy texts, and after, attended a lecture. Adeline took strength from the sermons on avoiding the pleasures of the flesh. Chao said he was legally married, but in all things he was married to God, and looked at Henri and Marie as he spoke. In doing so, he saw Hertha’s mouth dip in sadness.

Abbot,” she asked, “nothing will stand between myself and God. Should I not share him with others?”

He thought for a moment. “Of course you must. You live with God, day and night. He is with us not just in prayer. We do eat with Him and do sleep with Him; do all in His Presence.”

On Sunday Hertha was ordained ‘Tao Ta’, which means ‘Our Right Path’. Steinke was also anointed as ‘Tao Chun’, and Margot Markuse as ‘Tao Lo’. The Bodhisattva led the ceremony before a crowd of two hundred people. Afterwards, Adeline and Jiaho politely turned away reporters. Chao and Hertha spoke with Walter Fuchs, and a Chinese official. Steinke was with Lo Chia-Ling and Baroness Soucanton. They were the monastery’s two biggest funders. Chao saw them and excused himself. Steinke was caught off guard by the interruption. Ladies, he said, our mission starts under favourable signs. We will propagate the Buddha’s doctrine in the West with His Holiness The Panchen Lama at our side. Steinke briefly registered the lie; his thoughts raced to Chao’s role in this successful day.

In December they returned to Shanghai, and mourned the death of the thirteenth Dalai Lama. The Italians, Anthony and Giotto, left then, and Chao did not seem to care. He was quite happy to hear of The New Life Movement, a moral reform program led by Kai-shek and his wife. Chao said it reflected their own principles.

Marie preferred Nanking: she missed the deer; the goats; gibbons; the coveted sightings of big cats. Initially reluctant about their early retirement, now she enjoyed sitting in one space for many hours. Except, Shanghai was noisier, and with it, the Abbot was harsher. He doled out extra work and punishments. She wanted to discuss it with Henri but Chao made sure she saw him less and less.

In January, Chao took Marie to the German embassy. His friends, Collenberg and Fuchs, had been replaced by Richard Behrend, and his request for a visa would have to go to Munich. Marie sensed Behrend had no interest in helping them. Two weeks later, she took down Chao’s dictated letter to the Fuhrer. He said he had once judged him wrongly and now, was full of praise for his role in the rise of Indo-Aryan civilisation, of which the foundations were the universal truth of the Buddha.

Hertha, twenty-four years young, thought the monastic life suited her. Where-ever they practised she could pray and paint, and find balance. She got on especially well with Escoffier, Marie and Willem, but not Adeline. She sensed she was not alone in this. Only The Venerable One considered Adeline a favourite. When he asked Hertha to join him in applying for a visa at the Belgian consulate, she was surprised. On Nanking Road, the Chinese turned Hertha’s head. She examined the women’s faces and postures. Hertha wanted to be one of them and could not understand why they held low status: women, and the Chinese generally.

A month later, Hertha looked over the edge of the SS Empress of Russia, the North Pacific Ocean long kissing her lungs, that vast face of God. She grappled with the door and found the Frenchwoman laughing at her on the other side. Escoffier had magnetism: she was sensible but also exuberant, and forever chirping on about colour. Hertha sneezed as old Adeline walked past and she stared disapprovingly from black raisin eyes. Escoffier, looking to cheer her up, took her to one side. Abbot Chaokung, she said, was once known by another name. He was a British spy! Hertha laughed at the idea of it. She did not believe Escoffier’s stories; until they reached Vancouver.

At first they thought it was related to Jiahao, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. They waited patiently forty five minutes. Then word came the Abbot would not be admitted on Canadian soil. Chao raised his voice. They had planned to go to Ontario to set up a Buddhist colony!

The group were returned to the ship and Adeline arranged for a telegram appeal to be sent to the Prime Minister. Journalists from the Vancouver Sun, The Courier and The Province gathered with cameras and tape recorders. Immigration were swamped with enquiries. The next morning, a telephone call came in from Ottawa. It was the Prime Minister, R. B. Bennett. He told the head official that Chaokung was to be allowed into Canada for thirty days.

They stayed at a skid row hostel between Gastown and Chinatown. Most other buildings they walked by in the afternoons were extravagant: Birks on Georgia Street with terracotta friezes; the Hotel Vancouver, where Babe Ruth and Sarah Bernhardt lodged; the Eastside Majestic picture house, and the Army and Navy Shoe Department claiming, ‘We Undersell Everybody’. The people were crushed by the Great Depression. ‘Willing to Work’ lay in laps of men sleeping in the streets. Rats ran around spilled soup and beans in a Government relief camp. Man, wife and child fought with police, who charged them with vagrancy. Chaokung’s protégés offered an intriguing distraction, and they discussed which were men and which were women. Reporters followed them, and the locals took advantage of this. Why did the papers not talk about Eton’s Clothing, who exploited crisis laws to pay half the minimum wage? The reporters brushed them off, and Chaokung in turn brushed them off. The acolytes formed a protective circle around him, but a few slipped through.

I am pleased at being officially on British soil for the first time since the war,” one heard.

I will speak at leading cities throughout England this summer,” another learned.

He told a third, “You can write a story without seeing me or talking to me,” before a door was slammed in his face.

Hertha was there only for show when he agreed to be interviewed by The Sun at Vancouver Hotel. When the journalist said he was in court for the trial of the Abbot’s son, he was gripped by sadness. Hertha was sent out, as Chao demanded the man recall every detail.

The attention from the press made sure the public lecture sold out quickly. Martin Steinke opened with a reminder how Siddhārtha Buddha was but a man living two thousand years ago. Modern culture was quite different. No one could stick to finding enlightenment in Buddha’s old ways. The modern disciple should embrace relevancy, be open to new teachings and new revelations.

At the interval, the Abbot was short and cold with him. He said it was him they came to see.

Rising above the restless soul is the only way to banish impatience. Politics is a dangerous game. It makes the heart heavy, but is necessary as a mechanism for Truth to be birthed across nations. Government, the armed forces, big business, these things cannot be entered into for ego. Or profiteering. Or power. Those traits must be removed by abstinence and fasting. The binding power of the universe is energy. Responsibility stands in the flesh. For too long men think in terms of greed and we deceive ourselves into loss.”

The name of his talk was ‘How I Killed Trebitsch Lincoln’.

On the train to Ottawa, he and Steinke looked out into scenes of white hillsides and gold rivers, brown countrysides and tiny houses. Chaokung saw the waterway to St. Lawrence River, and recognised sites of Presbyterian pilgrimages. He got up and passed his silent followers, to send the telegram.

TO RAMSAY MACDONALD, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

FROM BRITISH TERRITORY WHERE HAVE BEEN KINDLY PERMITTED TO LAND I SEND YOU FOR BRITISH GOVERNMENT FOR BRITISH PEOPLE MY ASSURANCE THAT I AM THEIR FRIEND NOT THEIR ENEMY STOP PLEASE ACCEPT MY SINCERE WISHES FOR THEIR WELFARE PROSPERITY AND PEACE.

Escoffier, Adeline, Hertha and Jiahao sat together, the lenses of Jiahao’s spectacles smiling permanently, and he was, of all of them happiest to be there. With his head shaved he looked much older than thirty-six, due in part to his poor upbringing. Hertha scrutinised him for any clue to the Chinese mindset. Tutelage under Cleather and Chaokung meant Jiahao had a good grasp on sacrifice, divinity and enquiry.

You should stop staring at him, Tao Ta,” said Adeline.

Pardon?” asked Hertha.

Perhaps if you spent more time affirming your vows,” said Adeline.

Now wait just a minute,” snapped Hertha.

Oh. Don’t think I don’t see you and Tao Lo.” Adeline shook her head. There was a glimpse of disgust and she turned to the window. “Lusting after the Abbot. Why, it’s unseemly,” she said.

I did not!” cried Hertha. “I did not!”

How about you cease bullying her?” said Escoffier. “Looking over that poor child’s shoulder every hour, like nothing is ever good enough. And she dare not say boo to you, no one dare.”

Everyone but Adeline, whose face was white, looked at the Frenchwoman with timid pride.

We do not make inappropriate remarks about you and the Abbot. Yet you get preferential treatment, you get anything you want!”

That is simply not true,” snapped Adeline. “How dare you, you harlot! Swanning about like you’re better than me!” Adeline didn’t know where to look. Finally she looked up and saw Chaokung.

He said nothing for a moment, and then, “This will not do. It is not for one sister to turn on another. It is a futile waste of the energies of the Buddha. You are all to remain silent until I say otherwise. Only I will talk during our week in Ottawa. Adeline, you will spend that time in solitary meditation. I hope you will learn to transcend your folly.”

That night they hear Sutton on sax, Gillespie’s trumpet, Ellington’s piano. On Friday morning they see linen mill workers going to risk their lives for a cheque. ‘Closed’ signs are hammered out by alleys brimming with the guts of store rubbish. They see a soup kitchen and ragged malnourished dockers and bawling babies with buckets. It is the third week of April and food rations have run out.

On Monday they return across Wellington Street bridge, above Rideau Canal. Across from the station is the magnificent Château Laurier. The hotel windows are Tiffany stained-glass. A diplomat crosses the lobby’s Belgian marble floor to meet them. They pass carved gables of scrolls and flowers to the new East Wing. The panelling is dark oak, like a British baron’s home, with trophies of the hunt overlooking the gallery. The elevator rises above the Jasper Tea Room, the two floors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to Bennett’s seventeen room suite. They line up before the Prime Minister, who greets each in turn. He offers refreshments, only to be told they are fasting.

They stand silently for an hour. In another room, Chaokung and Bennett talk about Buddhism and money.

Chapter 43

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Cologne, Germany.
November, 1919.

Something about him troubled Olga Nieuwkamp. Not at first, when he’d come to them from the Prince’s residence at Wieringen. He was charming, knowledgeable, and well connected. He had done some favour for Elsa, Olga’s secretary, at the American embassy. Elsa von Nagelein undertook charity work with Austrian and German P.O.Ws, one of many jobs she did brilliantly. Given how they felt, it seemed fitting to bring him to their home at The Hague. Olga opened up about her father and first husband, both consuls in Singapore; and her second husband, Thomas, the Dutch Consul in Cologne. When Trebitsch asked for a loan of two thousand florins, he had sounded embarrassed, and that endeared him to her.

Four days only,” he’d said, but the weeks went by. He returned to Berlin, and took Elsa with him. It was she who responded, once, to the letters demanding repayment. Her darling, T.L., was getting it organised. He just needed another month. After the Kapp Putsch, Lincoln was reported walking up and down Wilhelmstrasse in defiance of the authorities. That was when Olga lost patience. She talked the matter over with Thomas, and they set his lawyer on Lincoln’s trail. Summons went to Vienna, were the Czechs already had him in the courts. Then he escaped: to America, to China. Thomas continued working at the embassy and related any sightings, but a decade of legal action was going nowhere. He had disappeared entirely when the Great Depression hit. Olga and Thomas dropped the case, sold the house in The Hague, and moved to Cologne permanently.

Berlin Philharmonic Hall.
Tuesday 25 October, 1932.

A line slowly moved on Bernburger, the street home to Germany’s largest newspapers. They paid their admission fee and waited in the lobby, glimpsed Martin Steinke, moving through the crowd. An unmistakeably serious intellectual, he’d tight cheekbones and dark cropped hair. Then into the darkness of Schwechten’s converted ice rink, a thousand seater grand auditorium. Rows Door A, stalls and balconies Door B. The lights simmered low and then the hush. Steinke took the stage and introduced himself, leader of ‘Gemeinde unm Buddha’. For ten years he’s published ‘Community Around Buddha’. Devoted as they were to fellowship and study it was the group’s great honour that evening to present to Berlin a man in keeping with those practices; the Abbot Chaokung.

Good evening. Wǎnshàng hǎo. Yi’n shui’ si yuan: when you drink the water, remember the spring.”

My Way to Buddha’ drew on the teachings of Madame Escoffier, Dr. Grimm and the Brahmavihara bhvana: the four virtues which were love, compassion, empathic joy and an even mind. What could be accomplished in a year’s devotion, he said.

The audience delighted in the descriptions of the Pao-hua-Shan Monastery: how every monk worked in co-operation for the temple’s up-keep. Each were rotated around different jobs: cook, cleaner, gardener, barber, each role like the taking on of a different identity, an identity fluid like the water of life. Some chores were only performed in days ending in ‘4’ or ‘9’. The monastery was cleaned daily, even areas that were spotless. That was how to assure a clean mind and a clear heart. He spoke of Shanghai, were conflict was lessened after the Ceasefire Agreement. Yet “heian shije”, a dark world, was coming. So Buddhism was on the rise. Asia could not contain it. There was a need for it in Berlin, Stockholm, Budapest, anywhere man breathes.

The curtains closed, black on house light, to applause. The newspaper presses rolled, sending Chaokung’s words across Berlin by tram. Night and day, Kung prayed with Steinke and Hertha Henschel. Cymbals chimed and Hertha’s pretty eyes fluttered. Steinke counted out Deutsch-marks, gifted to the Abbot for his train to Brussels.

He looked into the box of silver and would think back wondering if that was the moment everything went wrong.

The window delivered a fast reel of grainy snapshots. Leipzig: tall evergreens of triangular trinities. Frankfurt: mountain ranges rolling and bobbing, yellow and red steel bridges. Cologne, and rain clouds gathered over the locomotive. Then, like sudden revolution, the sun stretched out and breathed into the carriage. The man in black suit and trilby was a British secret agent. He just knew it. He stopped in Liege, where two men seemed to follow him in October’s callous weather. Damp robed he arrived in Brussels. He watched life speed up, contemplated all the people through the intersecting steel bars.

Before Steinke even arranged the lecture he’d wanted to prove he could be in Berlin: capitalising on a successful market; a cooler climate than Munich. Brussels was another return to another country, toward another coast. The prison bars sub-divided the dimensions of the universe, like the mesh of the train carriage. The sound of the train carriage was the encore and omen of applause. He remembered thinking he would go to where he was safe, appreciated, powerful.

From Brussels back to Liege, because he was in no hurry. He’d hustled another speaking lecture. From there, across the German border. Not far, for he was not quite ready to retreat.. He would go back to Cologne, back, back the way he came like some worker ant. There were passengers with newspaper faces talking of Gyula Gömbös, who had become Prime Minister of Hungary. The opening of the San Francisco Opera House. They pass viaducts and transmitter towers, enter the Rhineland. Die Transportgewerkschaften streiken. Shénme? On Thursday. Donderdag. Het is waar. Współpraca nazistowsko-komunistyczna. Ilekshanz zenen vayter vokh. Je vais changer mon vote. Du bist ein dreckiger Verräter!

The police car mesh window broke down all the buildings of the twenties: Cologne Butzweilerhof Airport, the University; disassembled them for his study. Then it was fogged over from his sweat. The door to his dirty cell rolled back like the carriages of the trapped. He was in prison in Brussels. He was in prison in Cologne. The two seemed to blur together:: with Parkhurst and Pentonville and Vienna. At night he dreamed of Cologne’s auditorium, rows and rows of metal seats filled with monks and nuns in black and white. From darkness, he illuminated. Then he remembered curtains backstage, and the sudden flash of the policeman’s torch on his eyes. They poked and prodded him and he screamed at the Belgian officer.

Do you work for the British Secret Service?” Chaokung said. “Ou étes-vous des agents de la France? Je suis un moine bouddhiste et aucun crime n’a été commis!!”

Vous avez été identifié comme un personnage indésirable,” said the Belgian officer.

The heat had boiled over in him as he listened to the demeaning tone. He put it at a distance, watched the events unfold before him, as the other prisoners swore, howled, laughed at the Nosferatu jail-bird.

Vous êtes expulsé. Vous ne devez pas retourner en Belgique,” said the officer.

Ihre Haftbefehl ist vom niederländischen Konsulat. Ihnen wurde der Diebstahl von zweitausend Gulden vorgeworfen,” said the German, and left.

Here he was again, trapped in the world’s dark time, the “heian shije”. When would it end? Might he slip through the bars, aided by the spirits of the Wise Ones? Chaokung thought deeply, silently. He practised his breathing exercises. He had to take his time. When he was released, for he would be, he would savour the successes, just like Steinke said. He’d do what he needed to do: be the victor, the advisor, the leader. This current state was just a part. He remembered the Belgian returning his personal artefacts: telegram from Collenberg, a book of prayer, his journal and the German visa. As he clung to this, something slipped through the cracks.

Frau Nieuwkamp,” seethed Trebitsch.

Chaokung looked past the apparition. To speak with it was to engage with it.

I have no money to give! I have only just gotten out of jail. Imprisoned because I am an enemy of the people!” said Trebitsch.

It was moustached, thirteen years younger and frail. This Trebitsch spoke in English, smelled of the sea air around Harwich A temporary autonomous state, released from Pentonville, he thought he could hear the radio orders demanding his recall.

Chaokung had accepted the truth of these words, of all things. He had no possessions worth any money. His only assets were owed fees from various concert halls. He was just a poor Buddhist monk.

I am already declared bankrupt!” shouted Trebitsch.

Footsteps approached. “Mr. Lincoln, ich bin Ihr Anwalt”

Chaokung raised his head and smiled. “Gut. Gut. Ich möchte eine Insolvenz anmelden.”

Chaokung drank his green tea then set the cup upon the saucer. He was barely in Cologne prison a week, he said. All part of some elaborate intimidation tactic, again!! Hermann Erben laughed. He asked what didn’t Trebitsch do to annoy the German government. Chaokung said that he was no longer that person. Neither was he the man Erben met in Shanghai in 1928.

The three of them sat in the lobby of the Hong Kong Hotel. Erben was an Austrian physicist, now in his mid thirties. His friend, twelve years younger was a handsome bit-part actor from Australia. They listened with wonder as the monk spoke of Cologne, and his return to Berlin. The new government there refused to give him a new visa. The British said the same, so he returned to Nice. Errol Flynn asked about Shanghai and Chaokung talked of birdsong and bountiful fauna along the Yangtze’s mammoth cliffs. Flynn, who had come from filming ‘In the Wake of the Bounty’ in Sydney, didn’t talk of himself much. He was keener to hear about the twelve star tattoos on the Abbot’s forehead, which he learned were spokes on ‘The ‘Wheel of Becoming’. Their talk was cut short by Margot Markuse, arriving in flowing brown robes.

Excuse me, Master,” she said. “You asked me to inform you when the time was right.”

Chaokung bowed. Flynn and Erben shook his hand and he walked with Margot along Victoria Harbour to the ferry. Henri and Marie Chauve followed behind them, then Madame Escoffier, Martin Steinke and Hertha Henschel, each robed, looking out at the South China Sea anticipating their voyage to fantastic Shanghai.

Video: Talking Trebitsch with Richard Barr

Author Richard Barr remembers how Andy Luke discovered Trebitsch Lincoln. In this twenty-five minute interview, we talk about the great chameleon’s interest in his family, mysticism and the Nazis.

On Richard’s question to why Trebitsch was so obsessed with travel, I think a part of it has to do with Story. His own tale was for him a fixation therefore he used to travel to bolster his identity and create new dialogue, weave sub-plots and twists, and to make an end or sequel when the going got tough. It matches with his early love for the arts, his first biography and the self-image was doubtlessly reinforced by press coverage.

Richard Barr has written for NI Screen, The Big Issue and on toilet walls throughout the world. He is the co-creator of Axel America, with Andy Luke, and writer of comic strips for Hold the Phones! and We Shall Not Be Stapled. The Last of the Little Atlanteans featured in this year’s Gruesome Grotesques Volume 2, and The Dismemberment of Corpses featured in free e-mag, The Scum Gentry.

Chapter 42 (Series 5×1)

You can pay for chapters and over 75 pieces of exclusive content at http://patreon.com/andyluke

Shanghai.
Wednesday 27 January, 1932.

Three and a half million people, a tenth of them foreigners, milled around the free-market gateway to the East. Harbour improvements in the twenties brought in more ships, more businessmen and opium. The largest of the immigrants were from Japan, and the least popular with the Chinese. At the Versailles conference they’d delivered China a humiliating ‘Twenty-One Demands’, and held on to territory on the Southern peninsula: Port Arthur and Dairen. Every few years anti-Japan demonstrations resulted in student fatalities. National strikes would follow, shut downs of shops, factories and shipping. In reprisal, the Municipal Council cut the electric to Chinese owned businesses. Generalissimo Kai-shek took a passive approach to these and threats. His armies focussed on the Communists. Ten thousand were butchered, along with Northern warlords, and bystanders.

The International Settlement had extra-territorial rights for twenty-five thousand and was run by the wealthiest. These were British, who made up nearly half the colony, as did White Russians. Nearly half were Japanese. Life in the settlement was good for it was largely safe from Shanghai’s woes. A state of emergency occurred every few years, usually bringing warships from America, Europe, Japan and the British Empire to protect the municipality. The smaller French Concession housed ten thousand residents: only a tenth were French. Two fifths were Americans and a quarter British. Chao Kung lived in ‘French-town’, on Route Admiral Courbet. Those who knew him as Trebitsch suspected his attraction to Shanghai was linked to his desire to return to Britain. He’d dedicated Autobiography’ “to the Prime Ministers of His Majesty” and ended it pondering his folly of hate for “one of the great bulwarks of civilisation.”

The summer prior, catastrophic flooding struck Central China and four million lives were lost in a week. In September the Japanese bombed a railway line in Mukden: a false flag pretext for their invasion of the North-East. They took Manchuria, and this caused the Chinese bond market to collapse. Though these woes came on top of the Great Depression, the dollar and rouble went far in Shanghai and it entered a uniquely prosperous era. Parties in the Cathay Hotel were hosted by owner Victor Sassoon, a Baghdad Jew, who shaped his signature V.S. onto the roads he had built. Sassoon received diplomats and dignitaries such as Einstein and the Roosevelts: there was Emily ‘Micky’ Hahn, the journalist who introduced China to America; Zau Sinmay, the romantic poet; Morris ‘Two Gun’ Cohen, a Whitechapel Jew and boxer whose life of adventure mirrored Trebitsch’s. He’d travelled through Europe, Russia and America before settling down as Chiang Kai-shek’s bodyguard. There was Walter Fuchs of the German Consulate, known to British Intelligence, and Chao Kung. Much of his day was spent in meditation and study, but the afternoons he’d kept free for meetings. Chao wore a black robe with close fitting white trousers and carpet slippers, a skull cap on his closely shaven head, and a string of beads. Chao and Fuchs worried about the attack on five Japanese monks, and that the soldiers would use the incident to exact retribution.

On January 28th, the city’s optimism was ground to dust as three thousand Japanese troops marched through Chinese Shanghai. From the Cathay’s windows, guests saw thirty warships sail into the bay. Forty of Japan’s planes took to the skies. In the weeks ahead mortars blew holes in the city’s streets. Thousands of Chinese civilians were gutted and corpses piled up. Travellers brought tales of other Japanese invasions in the North: Hongkew and Suzhou Creek.

On February 9th, five days after the battle of Harbin, Chao Kung walked into the offices of the North China Daily News. ‘Can China be saved?’ he asked their English readers the following day. This bloodshed, he wrote, had been foretold by him through his ten year history with China. As ‘the first foreigner to be admitted into an age-old Buddhist order’, he had ‘Twenty-One Points’ for national regeneration. These included an end to opium dens and criminality, and more foreign advisors in key administrative positions.

The fighting continued until early March: hundreds were killed and thousands were made homeless. The occupation of the northern train station further closed Shanghai off from the world. ‘French-town’ was relatively safe. From there the Venerable Chao Kung wrote: to Margarethe, whom he asked not to call him Ignacz. He was no longer her husband. If she was willing to accept that he, as a monk of the Supremely Enlightened One, was her teacher, they could correspond further. To Kreitner he wrote angrily that he was disowning ‘Autobiography’. Kreitner protested that edits were made by the publisher without his knowledge. Chao decided to write his own book, free of editorial meddling. He incorporated details of correspondence with other Buddhists: Walter Persian in Hamburg; Dr. Grimm in Munich; and Madame Escoffier in Nice. The stars gashed on his forehead had not blocked his need for travel. The desire to get away, to be in transit, was only exacerbated by Shanghai’s volatility.

When the fighting came to an end he left the flat to give public lectures and was heckled by Christians. He met with Fuchs, who was enticed by his talk of forming a European Buddhist community. It would be a great centre of learning, and so Fuchs made regular donations to the cause. The widow of the richest man in Asia, Lo Chia-Ling, also contributed. Like Victor Sassoon, she was a Baghdad Jew, but Shanghai had made ‘Liza’ a devout Buddhist. She gave regularly to the monks and was an admirer of the Bodhisattva.

Fuchs got Chao an appointment with German ambassador Baron Collenberg at the German consulate. Fuchs’ assurances meant by the time June came and he sat in front of Collenberg, Chao’s new book was on his desk. ‘Can War Be Abolished?’ was a self published work which took advantage of Shanghai’s cheap printing and high quality calligraphy. On the cover was a photo of Abbot Kung, cross-legged on a cushion in deep reflection. Collenberg lifted a hundred page hardback from his desk.

I found it urgently touching,” he said. “I drew much hope for the future while reading it.”

I am grateful for your support, and that of the wider German community here,” said Chao.

You are no longer involved in politics?” asked Collenberg.

I am out of it. I fled, into the void,” said Chao.

From Saul to Paul. I understand you wish to visit Germany for literary and religious activities?”

I wish to study, and perhaps set up a monastery there. A man in Hamburg wishes to do likewise, but I do not think him fit to do so,” said Chao.

I see,” said Collenberg. “Then, your holiness, I am happy to recommend to Wilhelmstrasse you be allowed to return.”

He walked a Shanghai in recovery. The orphans cried and Chao Kung shook in the reverb-storm. Though he was heartened meeting Collenberg, his mind moved faster: to Germany; to France; Canada. He soon found himself on the SS Trianon sailing for Antwerp. It was the slow sail: nearly two months over the Pacific, past Java, around the Atlantic. He made what sociable sport he could with the passengers, and wired ahead to Madame Escoffier. He and the Buddhist leader could reunite during his stop off at Marseilles. The sea air lifted his mood, the boat bobbing as he sunk and rose in meditation. He sailed through a world which heard jazz and talked peace, saw talkies Battleship Potemkin and Metropolis, and new stars Marlene Dietrich and Mickey Mouse. In America, the Chrysler and Empire State buildings competed for skyline, above which his friend, Karl Weigand, travelled on the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin years before. It was a pleasant trip. In blue sky birds flew and in evenings became luminous wonders in electric light.

The clean air and soft light warmed Chao’s robes as he lay back on the purple cushioned lounger, to the sound of excited holiday makers and the smell of fresh baked baguettes, olives and ratatouille. A coloured glass was put in his hand, cool water trickling a ring around his finger. He looked at Madame Escoffier with her suntanned skin, golden hair and curves. He acknowledged her with his signature nod that was not a nod: a subtle lowering of the eyelids. Escoffier sat by Henri and Marie, who eased out of their daydreams to give the same silent nod. He looked out to the descending houses of the Riviera, shapes of buildings competing for character: the cathedrals; Nice Opera House; the Masséna Casino; the restaurant terraces and the old town. The cannon, firing midday since the Sixteenth century, was unlike the terrible bombs of Shanghai. It was a simple call, reminding citizens to lunch. He’d grown to expect it. Somewhere down there, Chagall and Matisse painted glories on canvasses. Palms and citrus trees stood assured of serenity. The Promenade des Anglais and flat beach curved around the Bay of Angels and the cool Mediterranean.

Then a sudden, flaring alertness. Inside, throat to root chakras screamed, demanding everything. Chao blinked, twice, and saw a ray of orange heat binding Escoffier and her disciples. As she moved across the patio, watering can in hand, their shared consciousness seemed to follow. He could hear the plants, gently replenished. Deep in these ruminations it was a moment before he realised Henri was speaking to him.

Bodhisattva, will you talk more of this monastery you want to establish?”

Chao’s eyes silver-sparkled. He waited for Escoffier to join them and he began to speak.

 

Chapter 41

You can pay for chapters and over 75 pieces of exclusive content at http://patreon.com/andyluke

Kowloon, Hong Kong, South China.
Monday 16 April, 1928

Rain sloshed by the glass, fall shelves of transparencies, damp seeping into the crammed apartment. He moved, skinned head above ochre robes. His identity: kitchen cleaner. The moments of surface wiping, cloth folding and dusting re-energised his space and his health. Then he became tenzuo, cook. He arranged two carrots, a potato, parsley, as knock bang knock reverberated at the door.

Trebitsch Lincoln? I’m from the South China Daily News.”

The voice was male, British with a hint of American, forty-something.

There is no one here of that name,” said Trebitsch.

Are you plotting more intrigue against the British Empire?” he asked.

Breathing calmly, Trebitsch opened the door. The man was five foot and forty-something. He’d a full head of grey-red hair, slits of blue eyes and was clean shaven.

Now listen. My time in politics has ended. I simply wish to be left alone,” said Trebitsch. And they talked.

Peking, North China.
Three Weeks Later: May, 1928.

At her temple, Alice Cleather raked sand in n gentle geometric motions. Her moves reflected the changes of the city: new streets and public parks, changing attitudes to food, waste and water. Though replaced by Nanking as the capital, she was not done yet. For a half hour the woman in her mid-eighties had forgotten this and forgotten the burden of leadership. The once graceful round curves of her body has become thin, sharp and jagged. She hears the detective’s approach, and quieter, Basil’s steps. She didn’t look, just carried on marking out the furrow.

You’d do well to keep your people close,” said Doyle. “Thirty dead in Jinan last night. The Japanese and Kai-shek’s forces each converge on Peking.”

Yes we heard,” said Basil. “Where is Trebitsch Lincoln?”

I spoke with him in Kowloon,” said Doyle. “Pretended to be a journalist. Didn’t get much; the authorities deported him two weeks later.”

Good,” said Basil.

They deported him by sea,” Doyle said. “I have a contact that puts him in Dalian.”

Cleather slowed her rake down to a vibration near stillness. For the first time she looked up, into the chubby face and grey-red hair of her sleuth. Her calm fell into distress, mouth and eyes knocked wide open. Tall Basil Crump was usually unflappable. The news of their competitor reflected Cleather’s panic in his tired dark eyes.

He’s in Manchuria?” asked Cleather. Though English she’d grown a Chinese accent, a venomous one, and the words came out like a spit.

Possibly Manchuria. Rumours grow easily round this fellow,” said Doyle.

What did he say to you in Kowloon?” asked Basil.

Very little. That he devotes his life to spiritualism. He intends to reach Tibet.”

Dalian is three days by foot from Mudken…” said Cleather.

The Panchen Lama is in Inner Mongolia,” said Basil.

Far from persecutors and pretenders. As it should be,” said Cleather.

We need to address the bill,” said Doyle, taking a sheet from his jacket.

Cleather waved it away. “Basil will pay you on the way out.”

She watched them leave and then turned back to work. A monk behind her threw a seed out in slow motion.

Jiahao, come here,” she said.

The Foreign Office, London
One Year Later: June 1929

William Tyrrell took Lincoln’s file and slapped it on his desk. Each time there was a new Minister, especially a Labour minister, he was required to train them up. Official policy stated Lincoln was to be ignored. Reports on his activities were also discouraged. The existence of his file was a paradox-fuelled headache emblematic of the man himself.

There were many reports the previous year, most from friends of Buddhists and Theosophists in Peking. They were international, of course, right down to a Croydon bank manager. Tyrrell turned the pages faster. April: Shanghai, Hangchow; Mid-May: Tientsin, Manchuria, and then Tientsin again in August. There, Vice-Consul George had ignored orders, and listened to Lincoln’s paranoid tales. Lincoln had stalkers and George wanted to know if he should be offered police protection.

Tyrrell remembered this was when he’d tired rebuking officials with bothersome sightings. George’s superior, Jamieson had written the next day, of Lincoln’s sell-out public lecture to the Tientsin Rotary Club. Jamieson had written them a strongly worded letter. Then the same from Ambassador Lampson in Shanghai the very next day! The previous Autumn Tyrrell had reprimanded Lampson’s second, Steptoe, on the Lincoln matter.

William Tyrrell wondered why they had so much intel on a man supposedly dead to them. Today’s entry was a plea from Lincoln, asking to be let into England to see his sons. It came through the PM’s office, wired on a boat from Shanghai to Hamburg. Before Tyrrell put it with the others he flipped the next page forward and back and found a strange thing. Six months before, an official statement from the Indian government denying Lincoln (nor T.E. Lawrence) were in Afghanistan.

Other than the report of no report, and the PM’s message, there were, well, no reports. For a year, Lincoln had seemingly disappeared.

Shanghai, East China Coast.
One Year Later: May 1930.

The central waterfront strip, The Bund, was home to the five floor Cathay Hotel. Completed only a year before, it was a luxurious sanctuary from the world’s cares. Noel Coward and Emily Hahn stayed here. Charlie Chaplin called by. Brawls erupted in the streets outside but arrangements between police and crime gangs kept the parties in swing. It was a magical time in a magical city with an edge to it: the storm that was about to break.

Walking through the ground floor brasserie, property magnate Silas Hardoon waved to his tenants: the shaven-headed monk and the silver haired ex-politician. They waved back as Hardoon passed. It was eight years since Lincoln waited for Bauer in Vienna, and enlisted Kreitner to ghost write his autobiography.

I missed his funeral. He had me on a job in Berlin,” said Kreitner.

Energy is the true matter of the universe. Bauer is still at work. After I was barred from entering Germany I made it to Rotterdam, and crossed the Netherlands into Belgium. I worked on the book on the train and when I arrived in Paris. It is ready.”

Did you change those names?” asked Kreitner.

Trebitsch bent over for his satchel. In the space behind him Cleather’s monk, Jiahao, faced Kreitner. Trebitsch raised his head. In his hands were two hundred typed and marked pages. He ran his fingers across ‘his’ first chapter, liquid metal flapping from beneath his nails. He repeated the motion on chapter two as the silver formed tiny spheres. A dozen floating pearls circled Trebitsch’s field of vision. As he spoke they seemed to spark.

There are people who have wronged me. While I have a platform, I will not be idle while they wrong others.”

Kreitner lifted a chapter from the pile and flicked through to the second page. “They won’t print this. And if they do, we’ll be sued in court!” he said.

Trebitsch countered, “We name names or foist obsolete negativity upon the world.”

We’ll be open to libel,” said Kreitner as he put a pen through two lines.

Trebitsch sunk his head and Jiahao watched.

Peking, North China.
One Year Later: May 1931.

Political power and wealth are leaving Peking. Bank capital disappears to nothing. It becomes the old world again, in narrow dusty streets. Yet the people continue. There are street kitchens, barbers, cloth shoe cobblers, and one man theatres. Men walk their birds. Cigarette stubs are turned to new rollies by coolies. Cleather’s monks stroll along Wangfujing with it’s many shops. The cool air stirs their consciousness. On a bench, a balding old Westerner with a full grey-red beard reads a hardback.

Cleather said, “I like the beard, Mr. Doyle. Three years has made all the difference.”

He stared up at her and the two acolytes. “Speak of the devil. I guess you’ve seen this?”

Doyle raised the book. Cleather’s acolyte, Basil Crump took it. The cover title was ‘Die Autobiographie eines Abenteurers’, authored by I.T. Trebitsch-Lincoln.

Autobiography of An Adventurer,” said Doyle. “Berliners can’t get enough of it. Have you had dealings with him lately?”

We have not,” said Cleather.

Doyle told her, “He’s in Nanking. His latest nom de plume is Chao Kung.”

Yes, we are aware of this,” said Basil. He passed the book to Cleather who waved it off.

Yes, you’re watching him,” said Doyle. “How many updates has Jiahao sent in the last year?”

Our decision has been made,” said Basil.

We do not require your services, Mr. Doyle,” said Cleather.

He leafed back through to his place in the book. “The British employed me to track him. I thought you might appreciate some of the benefits of that at a discount.”

We have no need of rude outsiders,” said Basil.

Good day, Doyle,” said Cleather.

An hour later, Basil remarked to Cleather that Doyle must have faith in his sources. If Trebitsch was in the South, in Nanking, what was Doyle doing there in Peking, a thousand kilometres away?

At the same moment Doyle was sat aboard a train, across from the Venerable Master. He rolled in and out of sleep eight hours to Nanking, eyeing the monk occasionally. The carriages paused at Tientsin then carried on twenty minutes to the new capital.

Nanking still rebuilt from Kai-shek’s power grab four years before. Then raided embassies and mass looting drew reprisals from the international community. The British had sent heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, explosive rounds and bomb craters, Snipers returned fire and forty people died, mostly the Chinese, until one of Kai-shek’s commanders reigned his men in. Deserters and communists were blamed. Now Nanking was home to a fast growing population. The Kuomintang party hosted national conferences and outlined progress toward a constitutional government.

The next day two birds winged by as Doyle followed the bells toward the laurel trees. The brick building he sought was at the heart of Pao-hua Shan temple. Inside, public observers of the ceremony were sat on chairs around the edges. He joined Prop-Moller, a Dane expert in Buddhism, as twelve monks read the twelve precepts of the Bodhisattva.

Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t engage in sexual misconduct. Don’t lie or engage in wrong speech. Don’t sell or consume alcoholic beverages or other recreational drugs.

The Venerable Master’s palms were together in prayer and Trebitsch Lincoln a.k.a.‘Chao Kung’ kneeled to the left of him. A triangle chimed between the chanting of each commandment.

Don’t discuss the faults of the Buddhist assembly. Don’t praise oneself and speak ill of others. Don’t be stingy or hostile to others who are less fortunate.

Doyle got that this was a big deal. The initiation of the Bodhisattva, the one who stays behind; he who delays reaching nirvana out of compassion for all.

Don’t harbour anger or resentment. Don’t slander the triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha.

Then, the Venerable Master said there were forty-eight other precepts and the monks began to chant each in turn. Doyle stifled a sigh. He wasn’t one for sitting around, hence checking on the Master in Peking. Twelve candles smoked, and would have warmed his heart but they had first been dipped in India ink and the fumes stank. Cleather’s man Jiahao was there, knelt on floor cushions with other monks. Among the guests he spied a monk he saw with Cleather and Basil Crump before leaving Peking. Doyle was sure of it. Perhaps they, or ‘Chao Kung’, would recognise him. He’d have an excuse to leave. He wondered how many pages there were to the ordination booklets.

The monks rose and Master spoke and they chanted more and he didn’t understand much of it. Then, one stepped forward and covered the head of ‘Chao Kung’ with a shawl. ‘Kung’ was led to the foot of the Master, literally, taking the ankle in both hands. The first candle was brought forward. The Master dipped a pen into it and scribed a star into Kung’s forehead. He gripped the Master’s leg tight as the pen seared his flesh. A second star was tattooed on the initiate’s head, then, a slow third carving and Doyle’s face was pale. The initiate’s face contorted. He trembled and squeezed the Master’s leg through the fourth and fifth. There were twelve stars in all and the pain was immense. He resisted screams that would have been heard throughout Nanking.

Peking, North China.
Six Weeks Later: June 1931.

On her walk through Tianamen Square Alice Cleather tried not to think about the second man she’d sent to follow Lincoln, or the news he’d brought back. It was the morning Lincoln’s book had been reviewed in the London Times. ‘Short and summary, makes amazing reading.’ As she turned onto Dongjiaomin Alley she saw the English edition in the window of a book-store. Cleather breathed in cold morning air to keep anger at bay. She approached the Grand Hôtel des Wagons-Lits on Qianmen East. On the hotel wall, Lincoln’s face looked sombrely down on her.

The poster read, ‘The Abbot Chao Kung in Three Public Lectures: The Mysteries of The World, Of Life, Of The Self.’

The fire gathered in Cleather’s breath. She whirled her head around and saw two monks walk the pavement opposite.

You see this??” she screamed. “They have taken this ‘creature’ into their confidence!! The Europeans think he is some holy one!”

As blood mist evaporated from her face, she recognised the monks. The first was Chao Kung, the second was disloyal Jiahao. Disappointed, Jiahao shook his head before returning to the noble eightfold path.