Back at the cave, rocks continued to rumble down the slope. Mat's first sense as he stirred was being dragged out of the rubble. Then came the agony. Every part of his body was bellowing with pain. Hiro's skull had been smashed flat. The Austrian had glimpsed the splattered mess as he passed it. His first thought was about his medical condition. The pain was a thrill. He thrived on it, even if he enjoyed inflicting agony on others.
His second thought was, "The treasure? Have the Thais found it?"
Then more pain. A second wave hit him, but from his shattered bones, he held his dreams of vast riches at bay.
Days later, he came fully awake for the first time; he was soaking wet, sweat ran down his angular body, he saw he was in a clean but damp bed in a spacious hospital ward. A pigeon flew into the ward and as quickly left via the window opposite.
"That wouldn't happen in Germany," muttered Mat to himself.
He noticed a Thai man peering at him.
"The war ended while you slept. What are we going to do with you?" asked the Thai. "How is my friend?"
Knowing full well he would never see him again, but keen to glean any information he could.
"Your friend? You are a Nazi, how can non-Aryan be your friend?"
The Thai slyly studied his reaction.
Mat was trying to gather his wits. Who was that man, what did he want?
"We are not all the same, you know," answered the groggy Mat.
"Really?" asked the man who was dressed in a western-style suit.
Mat guessed he must be secret service or similar.
"No, I can be of use to you. If the war has ended, you will need help. I speak English and German, you will need someone like me," stated Mat.
"I will talk to my boss."
The well-dressed Thai turned and walked away, leaving Mat wondering.
Mat checked his body, one leg in plaster and a heavily bandaged head, plus strapping on his arm.
"Could be worse," he thought, grinning to himself.
The pain was fun, Mat enjoyed it, then a nurse ruined it by administering more morphine. He slept again.
"Hi, I'm Sol Finkelstein," said the painfully thin patient in the next bed, "You were muttering in your sleep, I couldn't place the accent."
A newly groggy Mat tried to shake off the haze of drugs.
"How could they put a Jew next to me?" Mat asked, not caring who heard.
His dread got worse. A white man was pushing a dark-skinned man in a wheelchair down the ward. The two Australians had been injured while being transported from the death railway camp.
"Don't say they are going to put Abbo on the other side of me?" Mat felt dirty.
A nurse took over, helping the black man to his bed as the other Australian hobbled past.
"Nurse, give me a walking stick. Now!"
"Solly, sir. I no Engleesh."
Mat was tempted to hobble out of the ward. Instead, he feigned sleep until a doctor came. It had been bad enough conversing with the Indians, that was duty. But chatting with his two neighbours went against everything he believed in.
The doctor's English was not fluent, but passable. "Good afternoon sir, how do you feel?"
"I would feel a lot better away from these two." Mat pointed to either side of him.
"Sorry? What do you mean?"
A frustrated Mat was losing his temper.
"I can see you are busy. I want to leave. Get me a stick, I'm off."
"But sir, I cannot allow you to leave my care," the doctor studied Mat's set expression. "Just do it." Mat stared at the white-coated man.
Not used to taking orders from lesser beings, Mat wanted to be away as fast as his broken leg would allow.
The doctor raised a hand, "Before you go, you had a visitor while you were sleeping. He left this phone number. Please call him."
Mat hobbled to the front desk and used the phone without asking. The man on the other end of the line asked him to wait in reception for his visitor to return.
A well dressed middle-aged man breezed through the entrance. He walked directly to Mat and said, "Do you want to earn an income? You can work for me translating papers."
Mat didn't know, but it was unusual, and impolite not to wai on greeting someone. Also, the man got straight to the point, no preamble. They settled it. Mat would have an income.
He started his new job; it was boring after the thrill of the war, at least he had time to recover his strength. He had a small staff house and a woman to keep the place tidy, and soon she took care of his manly needs, too.
She became pregnant and gave birth to a son.
"A pity he is not more European looking," Mat grunted.
His woman did not understand him. Mat had learned some Thai. Sometimes it was good that his pronunciation was not clear.
The three lived in the same house. The father never spoke to his son. As much as the mother wanted her son to learn English, his father could spare no time. He was far too busy planning how to retrieve 'his' treasure. Until he became sick. Cancer hit hard and fast, Mat was bedridden. He spent his remaining time writing.
"Give this to your son when he can read English," Mat said in basic Thai. "He is our son," she whimpered as she clutched the envelope to her chest. "Just do what I tell you."
His passing was quick.
The air-mail envelope was put away in her small jewellery box, promptly forgotten under cheap trinkets.
The son grew into a fine young man, polite, respectful and good looking with his father's fair hair. Sadly, he never learnt English. Anyway, his mother had forgotten her promise to his father.
Years later, a grandson was born. Named in memory of his grandfather, Mat Junior. He was unlike his father, having more similarities to his dead grandfather.
Young Mat, at four years old was already rude and arrogant.
Both parents and grandmother thought they should consult a monk.
"Someone is living inside him," warned the orange-robed man.
"What should we do?"
Months and years past prayers did not help.
Pray for a vote?
YOU ARE READING
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