Hong Kong, The Doorway - Chapter Eight
Hong Kong, The Doorway - Chapter Eight
On the second day in Hong Kong, Damian was with his guide on a trip out to Macau when he saw the Barrier Gate, a name which immediately piqued Damian’s curiosity.
“Beyond that lies China, Mr. Miller,” his guide said.
It was almost hypnotic, for Damian could not take his eyes off the horizon.
“Can we go there?” Damian asked.
“That is very difficult, Mr. Miller,” his guide replied, seeming more mysterious than factual to Damian, because Damian could not comprehend being this close to the land of all of those Kung Fu movies he had seen and not being able to just drive on over.
“Why?” asked Damian with puzzlement.
“Communist,” came the flat reply.
“What do you mean?” Damian shot back, his eyes even more intently studying the land before him.
“You must have permission of the government in Beijing to enter. It is impossible without it...unless you wish to be shot,” laughed the guide.
“How long does it take to get permission?” Damian wanted to know.
“Weeks, months, sometimes even years,” the guide answered.
“What?!” Damian demanded incredulously. “Weeks? Months? Years? Isn’t there any faster way?”
“Well,” the guide began, “I know some people of influence with the Bank of Kowloon who, for a price, can get you there tomorrow.”
A day, and five-thousand dollars, later, Damian was, as predicted, on his way to Beijing. Rosa and Nell had no interest in going. Communism held no attraction for them, and they decided to stay in Hong Kong until Damian got back. After all, he would only be gone a week. They would use the time to continue shopping and have some dresses made out of the lovely silks that seemed so abundant here.
Damian had barely arrived in Beijing when Vanucci and his band of Jesuit aides arrived in Hong Kong, unaware that they had just missed their man again. Vanucci’s connections with the Italian police had given him the information he needed to find Damian’s hotel, the Victoria.
“Rosa Giovanni!” the young priest exclaimed. “You are the famous Rosa Giovanni in Rome who is in the song by that American star, Damian. I saw you at the concert in Rome last week and read about you in the newspapers,” he gushed with the enthusiasm of an autograph seeker.
He did not show the fact that he had been lurking around the hotel for more than an hour-and-a-half waiting for her, or Nell, or even Damian to happen by. His lines had been rehearsed for a meeting with any of them in any combination, and Rosa beamed with pride at the mention of her connection to Damian. Nell was all smiles, too. After all, this young, handsome man only wanted their autographs. So, it wasn’t even with a second thought that they told him he couldn’t have Damian’s autograph today, because he would be in Mainland China all week, but if the young priest was here when Damian got back, they would see to it that he got one. When the young Jesuit left, however, he had what he wanted, Damian’s itinerary in China.
Damian had wasted no time in hiring a guide and getting the necessary clearances for his trip to the province of Hunan. It was in this province that the fabled Shaolin Temple rested, in the Song Mountains, a temple known throughout the entire world as the ultimate hiding place of Kung Fu secrets. Mention the word “Shaolin” to anyone studying Kung Fu, and if they knew anything at all, they would tell you of the province in China called Hunan. Damian knew, too, and, while sightseeing in Beijing was like being in a dreamland, he could not wait to leave for the northern province. He just wanted to see the temple. He knew that he was not qualified to even suggest studying there, but having seen so many movies based on this temple of martial arts, he would settle for just a picture of himself in front of the main gate, something he could show his friends back in Chinatown and watch them turn green with envy.
Damian left the next morning early, very early. People all over China get up before the sun and practice T’ai Chi Ch’uan in the parks. Damian asked a man once what a person could do here after nine o’clock in the evening, and the man replied that one could get a good night’s sleep. At six a.m., they were leaving Beijing by train, heading north to Damian’s destiny. The countryside was as variant as the dialects. In some places, the landscape was so picturesque as to be indescribable, while in others, the poverty showed why some areas of China were forbidden zones, places where even a government guide could not take an outsider. Indeed, as Wang Xiu Na, his state guide, pointed out, China was a land of contrast and harmony, seeming conflicts held together by one common thread - that they were all Chinese. Damian didn’t buy Wang’s “Motherland reunification” explanations of China’s improper interference in Tibet, and he wondered sometimes if Wang believed all of the memorized, government-prescribed, puppet explanations of things he spouted when the appropriate questions were asked. Sometimes, the truth was too obvious for Wang not to see, Damian thought, but he was not here to argue with his guide, especially since Wang treated him so well. Little did Damian know, a month’s salary for Wang amounted to the equivalent of twenty American dollars. With the tips that Damian had given him, Wang, by his standards, was becoming a rich man. For a few more dollars, Wang would almost have converted and denounced the government.
The arrival in Hunan had Damian tingling with excitement, because he had seen Mt. Song, which Wang had pointed out to him moments after they entered Hunan Province. Mt. Song, home of the famous Shaolin...Damian was like a kid tearing his pants to go, but when they exited the train, a rain storm was building, and Wang cautioned that it would not be advisable to go until the storm had subsided. Wang said that the roads up into the mountain would become impassable if it rained hard, and this could trap them out in the middle of nowhere. It was hard for a persistent person like Damian to come so far and then have to give up, but Wang assured him that this was not giving up. He assured Damian that as soon as the storm was over, they would be on their way. Little did Damian know when he gave in that the rain was going to hold him up here for two long, boring days.
Damian could barely believe his eyes that morning when he looked out the window of his hotel room, and the sky was clear. Having to spend all of his time in a small inn halfway around the world, cut off from every modern convenience, was not what bored him. Having no one to talk rock music with, no piano to play on, no Western music of any kind, feeling like a fish out of water, this is what bored him. But, at last they were leaving the inn and heading out of the small village. Though it didn’t seem like it would be far to go, Wang assured Damian that it would take about an hour to get there.
They were rounding the corner of a point that jutted out from the side of the mountain when Wang stopped the car abruptly. There was a deep crevasse directly in front of them which had formed from the storm over the previous two days. Though it was only two feet deep, the car would be hopelessly trapped if they tried to go over it.
“There has got to be a way,” said Damian desperately. “I’m not going back to that inn for the rest of the week. No! Let’s get out and see what we can do.”
Damian was determined. No little rut, no little, insignificant rut a million miles from nowhere, was going to stop Damian Miller! As they stood surveying the scene, Damian suggested they pile rocks into the crevasse until they filled it, then they could drive over. A perfectly simple solution, he told Wang, and for once, Wang gave no official government argument.
They had been at it for about a half an hour when Damian heard the sound of a car approaching.
“Wang, sounds like another car coming. Listen,” Damian said
A few minutes later, a car very similar to theirs rounded the corner, and Damian’s face went absolutely pale. In the very front seat sat Antellio Vanucci!
Go to Chapter Nine
Go to Chapter Nine - The Shaolin Temple