Shan slid down the ledge and onto the road. The driver was
losing consciousness, and the lama had torn a strip from his robe
to tie around the soldiers bleeding head.
The old lama cocked his head as Shan approached. Shan did
not know the man, but he knew well from his years in prison
the weary smile and the calm, unafraid countenance. "You have
done what you can do for him," Shan said to the lama, his words
urgent. "Please go." He knew what the lama meant to do, and it
filled Shan with dread. "By stepping off that bus, you escaped. It
wont matter if they find you ten feet or ten miles away. I will tend
him," he said, kneeling by the unconscious soldier. "You have no
idea what they will do to you. Go to your friends, they need you
more," he said as the lama lowered himself into the meditation
position. "The soldiers will - " the lama cut off Shans words by
lifting a hand in a familiar gesture, an invitation to join in a mantra.
Memories flashed through Shans mind, of monks in his former
prison beaten senseless with batons and pipes, of old Tibetans
kicked in the jaw until their teeth fell out, of lamas gazing serenely
as their executioners aimed pistols at their skulls. The lama offered
a small, wise nod, then began a low, murmuring mantra aimed at
the injured soldier, an invocation of the Medicine Buddha.
"Lha gyal lo," Shan offered in a tight voice as he retreated.
Victory to the gods.
A patch of maroon flashed among the rocks fifty yards away.
He sprinted toward it, finding three monks hiding, trembling with
fear. "Away from the road!" he shouted, gesturing them toward
the maze of outcroppings on the slope above. The soldiers would
return at any moment. They would have batons and electric cattle
prods with which to deliver stunning blows. He grabbed the wrist
of the first monk he reached, a young Tibetan with a jagged scar
on his chin, whose eyes flashed defiance as he jerked his arm
away. "These are prison guards, they will not stray far from the
road," Shan explained. "But they will call in border commandos in
helicopters. Get to the high valleys," he urged. "Get out of your
robes. You cant go back to your gompa. Stay with the shepherds,
stay in the caves."
"Weve done nothing wrong," the young monk protested.
"Rinpoche is correct," he said, using the term for revered teacher
as he nodded toward the old lama sitting by the road. "There is
just a misunderstanding."
"There is no misunderstanding. Youre bound for years in a
Public Security prison." The other monks grabbed up the loose
ends of their robes and began running up the slope.
The young monk took several hesitant steps toward the lama
who was tending to the soldier. "I cannot leave him."
"They wont keep you together," Shan said to his back. "Go to
him now and all it does is guarantee you will spend the next five
years in a Chinese prison. Theyll crush your prayer boxes, burn
The monk turned, anguish on his face. "I have heard of a
Chinese who was a prisoner himself, who helps our people now.
How are you called?"
"You dont want to know my name, and I dont want to know
yours. Go." Shan insisted, pointing up the slope.
"But Rinpoche - "
Shan looked back to the lama, his heart rising in his throat.
"The old ones in prison just consider themselves on a long hermitage.
The best thing you can do for him is to flee, save yourself
so you can keep being a monk. Spare him the pain of knowing he
cost you your freedom."
The monk mouthed a silent prayer toward the lama, touched
his empty wrist where his beads had been before the knobs tore
them away, then sprinted up the slope.
Metallic whistles screeched from farther down the road, followed
by sharp commands and a long anguished moan. Shan,
fighting the panic rising within, surveyed the scene, spotting arcs
of color among the debris of rocks on the slope above. A thick
red climbing rope, a sling of black and yellow rope. He had found
the stolen climbing equipment. Something rattled by his foot and
he bent to retrieve a steel snaplink carabiner used with climbing
ropes. He was looking up at the debris again, trying to decipher
how the ropes had been used, when three loud cracks erupted
from the ridge above him. Gunshots. He ran.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...