Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Adventure of the Great Bell of Magwe

Chapter 1: A Diary Discovered. Looking back, should I have known? Should I not have exercised more forethought, attempted more restraint? I will never be able to answer those questions, but this I know: They will haunt me for the rest of my life...

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Chapter 2: A Race against the Tide

I continued to read the secret diary of my friend, U Sha Lok, heartily wishing I had discovered it before it was too late. He wrote: "I’m setting this down as I recover from my last encounter with the Bay, which was almost my last encounter on earth..."

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Chapter 3: “Come little brother, let’s go home!”

U Sha Lok’s gripping account of an extraordinary incident in his boyhood continued: "Now Moe had reached the group and was trying to carry one of them back to the hovercraft. Just then, an incoming wave crashed over the heads of the people in the water. When the wave had passed, there was no sign of the Chinese, or of Moe..."

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Chapter 4: A Mysterious Commission

I knew I had to get my brother out of this terrible place, far more terrifying to me than the howling waste of water from which we had been delivered,” wrote U Sha Lok...

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Chapter 5: We Hear of the Great Bell

What possible good can information of that kind be to me?” demanded U Sha Lok. This was a peculiarity I had often noted in my friend. Despite his consuming interest in anything that could help him sharpen his remarkable skills in the fight against crime, historical knowledge was of the deepest insignificance as far as he is concerned. For him, anything that occurred five years or more ago is dry-as-dust theoretical knowledge best consigned to musty volumes kept locked up in a glass-fronted cabinet in an empty room...

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Chapter 6: The Hidden Hand Revealed

"But let me proceed at once to explain why I have come to you,” continued Professor Daw Myint Hlaing. “During my search for the bell, I came across many disturbing indications of the true reason for its disappearance...”

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Chapter 7: The Truth Revealed at Last

Moments later, the door opened to admit Maung Oo, the leader of the irregulars, a band of small boys who served as U Sha Lok’s eyes and ears in the highways and byways of the metropolis. U Sha Lok swiftly explained to him the situation. “Let us hope U Lek Trey will be on duty this afternoon at Bo Street Police Station,” he said as the boy stood there. “If not, I fear it could take Maung Oo valuable time to convince another officer to act on his tip-off. After all, Maung Oo is himself known to the police, and an unsympathetic officer might not take him at his word...”

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Chapter 8: “Send Not to Know for Whom the Bell Tolls…”

After careering downtown at breakneck speed, we arrived at the wharf as the sun was setting. The time was almost upon us when, at the turn of the tide, the fishing boat would take the Magwe Bell away from this country forever. Urgently, his mood of fatalism apparently thrown off, U Sha Lok questioned the boatmen and the loungers, asking about the fishing boat we sought. About 50 small and medium-sized craft were ranged along the harbour, bobbing slightly in the tide, which was just reaching its height. A man directed us to one of them, and U Sha Lok and I ran towards it...

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Chapter 9: Death on the Water

Now I know, as I did not know then, the full implications of that encounter. Aboard the doomed boat, as it burned around them, deaf to the sirens and blind to the spotlights of the police boats that surrounded them, both of the brothers must have recalled the scene I later saw described in Sha Lok’s private journal. Both must have been aware that they were again engaged in a life-and-death struggle amid the stormy waters...

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Chapter 10: Where Did It All Go?

January, 2015. They told me Yangon had changed, in the twenty or thirty years since I lived and worked here, and helped my friend U Sha Lok, the famous consulting detective, solve and record his famous cases. It seemed to me that the great metropolis had more in common with my home in London than with its more gracious incarnation of the eighties and nineties. The snarling, choking traffic, the huge illuminated advertising hoardings, the soaring concrete flyovers, the pace of life, all had been quite transformed...

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