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Gold of the Generals

Gold of the Generals

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Gold of the Generals

Length:
313 pages
5 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 26, 2019
ISBN:
9780989514132
Format:
Book

Description

Gold of the Generals is a classic adventure story, great for a lazy afternoon, or for that long international flight. It starts in the exotic and history filled ruins of the Spanish Empire in Manila, and spreads to the jungles and beauty of Papua New Guinea. It has drama, romance, history, tragedy and treachery all tied up in fast paced, moving smorgasbord of exotic locations. We meet a range of characters, each with their own problems to solve, as they take up the challenge of looking for the gold and treasures, secreted by the Japanese forces as they escaped from Rabaul late in 1945.

PACIFIC LOOT is a surprisingly good adventure novel in the unusual setting of Rabaul, New Guinea -- one of the world’s most beautiful but little-known places. As Volume One of Nic Richards’ series GOLD OF THE GENERALS, it gets off to a good start by taking us from the familiar surroundings of Manila to the volcanic cone of Rabaul, where the Japanese Imperial Army hid weapons and war looted gold in a swiss-cheese of caves.

Richards builds an entertaining and suspenseful plot around a group of odd-ball characters involved in the hunt for “black gold”, in the literary tradition of Alistair McLean’s GUNS OF NAVARONE and WHERE EAGLES DARE.

Happily, this is not just another secret agent rip-off. The characters are highly original loose cannons, their dialogue rich with regional accents that Richards captures nicely. And the climax is suitably suspenseful and explosive.

Sterling Seagrave

author of GOLD WARRIORS and THE YAMATO DYNASTY

Publisher:
Released:
Jan 26, 2019
ISBN:
9780989514132
Format:
Book

About the author

Nicholas (Nic) grew up as a young boy into a teenager on Thursday Island in the Torres Straits of North Queensland, Australia in the sixties and seventies. The sea and the islands have always been a part of his life, filled with days of swimming, spear fishing, cycling, exploring old war-time forts, ship-wreck fossicking, digging up old settlements, all fuelled by an over-active imagination and curiosity. He joined the Royal Australian Navy for junior officer training, and left as a Sub-Lieutenant after five years of interesting training and wonderful experiences. He has gained several degrees and worked in ten countries in the Asia Pacific Region in international agricultural development. He now lives in the southern Philippines with his wife and two children. He uses his experiences of living in many countries and his exposure to the many different peoples, cultures, languages, foods, religions and lifestyles, to provide settings and realism for his writing. Nic has written and published two novels to date. Black Hearts, Gold Warriors is his second novel and it tells the tale of the hunter and the hunted across the exotic and dangerous landscapes of Mindanao and Vietnam, from the close of WW2 to the start of the new millennium. It is an action adventure spiced with historical fiction and romance, with wonderful and heady scents and sounds of life in the colourful and vibrant world of SE Asia. Nic’s first book called Gold of the Generals, is being revised and will be released in January 2018 and it is a wonderful story of the hunt for war loot and treasures in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.


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Gold of the Generals - Nic Richards

GOLD OF THE GENERALS

A novel by N.K.Richards

Published by Nicholas Richards at Smashwords. Please visit my author page at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/763733

ISBN 978-0-9895141-3-2

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you want to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for them, or lead them to the Smashwords author page. If you are reading this ebook and did not purchase it or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase a copy from them.

Thank you for respecting the hard work and effort of this author.

For Emily, Reymus, Kieth and Beatrice.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I wish to thank my family for their understanding in allowing me to indulge this intoxicating, always demanding pursuit of fiction writing. People who assisted greatly with reviews, edits, information or ideas include: Ross Jaax, Sterling Seagrave, Chris McLeod.

Cover graphics and art work by Fernando Zamora and N.K.Richards.

Selected other books by Nic Richards:

Black Hearts, Gold Warriors

Available from and through:

https://www.nkrichards.com

Location map of South East Asia and Papua New Guinea

Location map for Manila Bay and the Pasig River

Location map East New Britain and Papua New Guinea

Map of East New Britain Gazelle Peninsula and Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Location map of Fort Santiago on the Pasig River, Intramuros, Manila Philippines.

ONE: THE COLLECTOR

Samar Island, Southern Philippines 1994.

The rat and the man looked at each other, neither prepared to move.

‘Go on, I dare you,’ he mocked.

The rat twitched its nose and lifted its head, as it smelt the approaching storm. Or danger, maybe.

They shared a nippa palm hut built on bamboo poles over the sea, in the Southern Philippines. Wind and rain moved quickly towards the hut as a vast, impenetrable and moving wall. The man’s gaze returned to the newspaper article in his left hand. In his right hand, he held a long sword, a katana.

Manila Bulletin, July 7th 1994.

Two Filipinos were reported killed last week in the Northern Philippines, looking for the legendary Tigers Treasure", so named after General Tomoyuki Yamashita the Tiger of Malaya, during WW2. This treasure was reportedly amassed by the Japanese forces in the Philippines during their occupation from 1942 to 1945. During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and much of Indo China, they confiscated temple and museum treasures, government bank vaults, art works and personal holdings of precious metals, stones and gems. Many of these treasures looted by Japanese forces were reportedly shipped to the Philippines, for burial in tunnels and other secret sites, for storage prior to shipment back to Japan.

Temple treasures from Indo-China were melted down into gold bars for easier storage and shipment. It is estimated that many thousands of tonnes of gold bars, statues, stones, metals, coins and bank notes were buried at over 172 sites in the Philippine Archipelago, worth billions of dollars today. Often referred to as the Tiger’s Treasure or Gold of the Generals."

The man had a fleeting vision of two men killed, in their frenzy and lust for the gold loot. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the rat make a fatal move and turn its back on him. In one seamless movement, swift and fluid, the man dropped the paper and lunged forward. The sword blade glistened briefly before it slashed in a downward arc to the floor.

He smiled and wiped the blade free of blood, and kicked the rat carcass into the sea.

James (Jim) Collis-George re-sheathed the katana and moved his lanky frame stiffly across the bamboo floorboards, in search of rat baits. His eyes, the colour of the sea horizon on a cloudy day, were set in a face that was long and angular. His body was still well conditioned, in his early forties. Roughly handsome some would say, but no movie star look-a-like.

Jim sat back and briefly closed his eyes and nursed the old war wound pain in his thigh. As a Lieutenant during the Viet Nam war, he commanded a team of Royal Australian Navy clearance divers, working out of Saigon port. The memories of one day always washed into his mind. Like a stubborn stain on clean laundry. Always there no matter what you did to try to remove it. A day in November 1969, near Cu Chi, about fifty kilometres north west of Saigon, on the Saigon River.

Jim’s team had tracked two Viet Cong back to one of the numerous underwater river entrances to a maze of tunnels. They followed the guerrillas about twenty metres into the tunnel system, and into a nightmare of horrors. Jim often thought he could still feel the pain as the bamboo spikes from the booby trap ripped through his thigh and groin. He watched in horror as two of his team were impaled on steel lances, like live prawns on a kebab. The other two members were crushed in a collapsing tunnel shaft. He managed to remove the four bamboo spikes that had penetrated deep into his groin, and swam back down the entrance to the rubber dinghy, back to Saigon.

He looked up to the wall-mounted photo of Saigon, and its river, and gazed at the turbid and brown waters. Jim winced involuntarily as he recalled his pain and the torment that followed the loss of his men. And of his own loss. One testicle had been lacerated the other damaged and he could not father children, he had been told. The surgeons had patched things up on the outside. He was able to function as a normal man. The wounds had healed, but the emotional scars were still with him.

He could not have any children of his own bloodline. Jim was ambivalent about this situation. He was mostly concerned about the selfish gene syndrome. Who would continue his genetic material and bloodline? Who would care after he was gone and who would remember him? The eternal questions, but that he felt more uncertain without children, was clear to him.

He wondered, would they have looked like me?. God preserve us all, not another ugly looking bastard.

He smiled to himself, glanced into a mirror and caught his reflection. Salt and pepper coloured hair, soft, thick and springy like well-watered Bermuda grass, was parted on the left side and greased back. Powerful looking forearms and biceps were decorated with twisting cobra’s in blue ink, on both sides, barely visible. The tattoos were done in Southern Thailand, in the early eighties. He had been training and learning Muay Thai in the traditional style. He lived there for two years and left as an expert in the deadliest of martial arts.

Jim walked to the bamboo bed and lay down. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. It would not come. Instead, the visions of the temple treasures stolen from across Asia filled his mind. And fuelled his lust to find them. He believed that much of Indo-China was the source of these treasures, looted and taken to countries like the Philippines during World War Two by the Japanese. Treasures and artefacts from the Khmer Kingdom of Cambodia, the Champa Kingdom of central Vietnam, the Sri-Vijaya Kingdom of Malaysia and Java, The Kingdom of Siam and the Pagan Kingdom of Burma, all victims of the Japanese war machine. One stood out for its splendour and size: the Khmer Kingdom of Cambodia.

From the ninth to twelfth centuries, the Khmer Kingdom was an enormous collection of temples, pagodas, palaces and buildings. Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Kingdom, during the reign of Jayavarman VII in the twelfth century AD, was said to have been grander than any European city of the same period. Historical texts reported:

A golden tower ,and a golden bridge, guarded by two lions of gold, one on each side with eight golden Buddha’s spaced along the stone chambers.

The ancient Asian empires were always fighting each other and looting from each other. Treasures, gold, silver, spices, animals, slaves and land. Jim pictured an army of Champa warriors and war elephants from central Vietnam, sacking the Angor holy sites in 1177 taking temple and palace treasures with them. Then in 1431 the Thais attacked and sacked the restored Khmer empire, inflicting the greatest defeat on the Khmers. Amongst the treasures taken were large numbers of bronze and gold statues, gold gilding and precious gemstones and other treasures. In 1554, the Burmese army sacked the Thai capital Ayutthaya, taking many of the Khmer treasures and statues back to Burma.

All mixed up through the mists of time. Then the Japs came along and melted a lot of it down into gold bars.

Jim was frustrated with his inability to track down these artefacts, stolen as war loot. He had searched long and hard without any significant reward. His life now seemed to be developing into an obsession to find the gold and other treasures. He had no commitments: no children to look after. His wife was now self-sufficient thanks to his hard work. He felt cheated. Cheated by the war. Cheated by those who denied him the gift of children. Cheated by the ghosts of the Japanese Generals who laughed at his futile attempts to track down the war loot.

He sat upright and stretched his body. He heard the soft, rumbling noise of wind and rain, as it passed through the town area and beach. The raindrops fell at first gently, building quickly to a roar, then beating violently onto the roof. The musty smell of electrically charged air and dampness filled the nippa hut. Drops of cool water fell onto his neck, trickling down his back. He picked up the newspaper and read on.

The Ministry of Tourism stated that the Yamashita gold or Tiger’s Treasure does not exist and that people should be more responsible and careful, and stay out of old WWII tunnels. There was no comment on the reported treasure of gold bars.

Jim put the paper down and rubbed his face with his hands. He peered into the thick rain, and tried to visualize the many players and stories concerning the Tiger’s Treasure. Many thought it to be true. Many more thought it to be a myth.

He knew the facts. The Japanese forces occupied much of Indo China from early 1930 through to the middle of 1945. They forced the withdrawal of American Forces in 1942 from the Philippines. For the next three years, it was their colony. Under the Franco-Japanese treaty of 1940, Japan occupied and controlled Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos. Late in 1944, the headquarters of the Japanese South East Asian Armed Forces was transferred from Manila to Saigon in Viet Nam, as they lost ground to the allied forces. They occupied much of Indonesia and Burma from 1942 to 1945. China was effectively controlled by the Japanese from 1931 through to 1945.

During these two decades, Japan pillaged and collected the wealth of these countries. They organised effective transformation and transportation systems for the safekeeping of this plunder. The Philippines became a central staging and storage point in this process.

Many had sought the treasures and war loot since the end of the war, and some had been successful, despite the official government line. Many famous people had searched. Like ex-President Marcos, sixth president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He had been the most successful by far.

Jim was one of the believers in the Tiger’s Treasure. He was prepared to risk his own life and fortune to look for it.

Just need to know where to look I guess.

And that was the nub of the problem and where the fiction took over and gave a mythical feel to the whole concept. The lost tunnels, the so called treasure site markers, the counterfeit maps for sale, the ‘treasure’ sites for sale even. The credibility of the war loot suffered from the desperados and conmen who sought to cash in on the saga. He had tried unsuccessfully in the past. He knew of men who had lost everything in their search.

A modern day gold rush, that’s really what it is. But twice as dangerous as the old gold rushes. I think it is time to begin a new approach.

TWO: THE COPRA RAT.

Witu Islands, Papua New Guinea June 1994.

Phil Salmon was confused and frustrated.

The large, flat rock lying on the ground was an intrigue. A puzzle he could not solve. Bending on one knee, Phil looked closely at the object. It was some sort of artefact, carved in stone. It was about one and a half metres in diameter, with a deep depression at its centre, bowl shaped. Along the edges, it had a raised relief, with symbols inscribed. Completely unintelligible to Phil, adding to his frustration. The rock was near a collection of other rocks, and on the edge of a steep gully.

Phil was on Lama Plantation, Witu Islands in the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea. He grunted as he struggled to stand upright. Tallish, wearing reflective sunglasses, his blond hair reached past his ears, inexpertly tied into a ponytail. Phil's life of boozing, fornication and living in the tropics for ten years, made him look much older than his thirty-five years. His ruddy face was unshaven, and his beer-belly ‘love handles’ slightly overhung his hips. Long legs, still strong and sinewy, held the structure upright. Meaty arms, covered with short white hairs, terminated into surprisingly delicate hands, speckled and spotted with sun spots and the scars of melanomas burnt off by the laser gun. Two front teeth extended towards his thin lower lip. This appearance, combined with his reputation for being hard on his plantation staff, gave him the nickname of copra rat.

Phil moved towards the edge of a large volcanic depression, a caldera. He swayed somewhat as he looked down a sheer drop of about two hundred metres to the sea below. Behind him, the land was dotted with lumps of pumice and volcanic rocks, and sloped quite steeply to the windward side of the island. A track about one kilometre long wound its way downhill, through coconut palms and cocoa trees, to the black volcanic sand beach.

Phil was here on one of his monthly visits to inspect new cocoa plantings, in his role as Area Manager, New Britain, for the New Guinea Estates Company.

He turned to the manager of the Plantation. ‘Joseph, what the hell is this thing? Wonder if we can get it out and have a better look at it?’

‘Sorry boss I don’t know. But over near Kimbe researchers from the University of Papua New Guinea have been digging up things thousands of years old. Old pottery pieces called Lapita and stone wares.’

‘H’mm, interesting.’

Phil was a collector: of people’s allegiances, of friends, of favours, of war relics and of women. It was frustrating for him not to be able to place some sort of collector value on this object.

Kimbe was about sixty kilometres south of the Witu group. It was possible that this was old also, and something worth trophying. Phil had little sense or patience with concepts of cultural heritage or history. He looked at the opportunity or problem potential of each situation he faced. Clearly here in his mind was an opportunity. Something that might be exploited for financial gain.

Phil closed his notebook and pocketed his pen. ‘Okay I have seen enough of the plantation. It’s a fucking mess Joseph. Get your shit together and control your staff and labour or I’ll have you replaced. Now take me back to the office.’

Phil was not liked by his staff. He could not mask his callous and abrasive nature. He never tried to anyway. He rarely smiled and never offered praise or encouragement to his managers. He saw them as monkeys. His favourite way of describing how he trained them was monkey see, monkey do.

Phil would not describe himself as racist, though many others would. He thought he was different, better perhaps. He had New Guinea girlfriends and women that that he had slept with, and even had some New Guinea male friends. What Phil lacked was tolerance and understanding. He did not bother to understand the cultural background of many of his managers. He did not understand that for them, business and plantation management principles were lower down on their to do lists. There was another reason also for his remoteness and lack of sensitivity. A great loss suffered, that he always forced himself not to think about.

The Toyota Land cruiser bumped over the rocky road and Phil’s mind wandered.

God, can’t wait until tomorrow when I leave this dump. Full of fuckwits. Must be close to lunchtime. Gees I need a beer.

He was soon back at the Plantation guesthouse, and walked straight to the bar. Quickly and greedily, he swallowed a can of South Pacific Lager. The houseboy Baras entered the room with Phil’s food and tea tray, and his smokes. Phil ignored the lunch offering of old bread and tinned corned beef. He opened another can of beer, drank it quickly and belched loudly. Not satisfied, he rolled a joint and lit it, inhaling deeply through the rolled banana leaf he used as a tobacco paper.

The drugs began to kick in.

Ah, stuff working , call it quits for today. Why should I work my arse off for this mob of pricks?

Phil was convinced that he was not going to reach the age of forty, so had decided to enjoy life as much and as often as possible.

Nothing to live for anyway, not anymore. Why bother about all this shit about living and dying. Do what I want that’s my motto.

‘Baras bring whiskey and ice. Hurry up!’

Next morning, Phil was up as usual at five thirty and made line with his manager and supervisors. He was hungry and hung over, a typical situation for Phil.

At this daily ritual, the manager would line up his labourers and divide them into various gangs. Field workers, harvesting, driers, drivers and trailer crew, and the last would be the sick line. This was usually frequented by a mixture of the genuinely sick and malingerers. Regardless the no work, no pay rule applied. Phil’s interest in attending sick line this morning was not for the welfare of the labourers. He was far more interested to see how tough his manager was in sorting out the malingerers, and getting them off to work. Productivity and profits depended heavily on labour inputs.

He turned to one labourer, with some humour, almost bordering on concern in his voice, and spoke to him. ‘What’s wrong with you sunshine?’

‘Boss het blo mi e pen, na beksiat blo mi e pen to. Mi gat skin guria na skin blo me I hat.’

Phil recognised the classical symptoms of possible malaria. ‘Did you take your anti-malaria pills last payday?’

‘No em I taste no good ia boss, mi tro away.’

Phil shook his head in dismay and disbelief. His mood now normal and sour.

He turned to another sick man and growled. ‘What the fuck is your problem?’

‘Boss me got su long kok blo mi.’

Yuck! Phil did definitely not want to examine another man’s penis, and certainly one that was leaking white pus.

‘Okay, you come with me to the haus sik after lunch.’

The aid post sister can figure out his problems when I go to the airstrip this afternoon to catch the plane back to Rabaul.

Walking further along the line, Phil’s eyes were drawn to a gaping tropical ulcer on a labourer’s calf muscle. The ulcer was about two inches in diameter and filled with thick custard coloured pus, and grey rotting tissue at the edges. A pink-purple, fiery cone at the centre, held the mess together. It seemed like a volcano about to explode.

‘Joseph, let’s give him another dose of penicillin.’

Phil turned to the man. ‘Oi , you take off your pants and I’ll give you a shot to get rid of that sore.’

He filled the syringe with the drug, applied an alcoholic swab to the buttock and lined up the position for injection. Phil pushed the needlepoint through the hard skin, the combination of tough skin and larger bore needle made this difficult and no doubt painful.

Don’t forget, pull back to check we are not injecting into a blood vessel. Nothing, no blood, all clear.

After about thirty seconds of pretty hard pressure the syringe was empty and he withdrew the needle. He then gave the boy some cotton wool and antiseptic, and told him to clean out his ulcer. The labourer had barely moved throughout the entire process, despite the certain pain. Fascinated, Phil watched as he pushed the ball of wool through the ulcer and soaked up the putrid mess, turning it this way then that to get as much as he could into the pad.

The smell as always was foul, reminding Phil of an uncooked chicken he once left in his car over the weekend.

Could not get rid of that smell for days.

‘Okay, you all right tomorrow. Go back work big line long copra’ were Phil’s parting words to the man.

‘Thank you boss.’

Phil callously laughed to himself, as he strode back to the house.

Another idiot who believed in the healing magic of the white man.

After his second cup of coffee and smoke, he got on the radio telephone to confirm the arrival time of the balus. The weekly plane from Hoskins was due in at two o’clock today and he was booked on it to return to Rabaul.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be back at the New Guinea Club tonight sinking South Pacific lagers and enjoying some decent food again.

The road from Lama Plantation to Langu Plantation hugged the coastline all the way, traversing hills and small villages. About halfway through the trip Phil stopped the Land cruiser utility briefly. An old man and woman with their bundle of bush food got on, and joined the other five passengers he had already loaded up at Lama.

Phil was acting out of his previous bad experience, not compassion. He had learned the hard way that to ignore the locals was to create problems for himself later. ‘Heh old man get a move on will ya, the plane is on the way.’

As the old couple clambered aboard and excitedly greeted their fellow adventurers, Phil glanced out to his right at the view. A panorama of brilliant blue seas, flat and calm. Broken only by the thin white line of churning water where the swell met the fringing reef. Further out Phil spied three small islands, cone shaped and rising steeply from the sea. Off to his left the green dense jungle, which seemed mysterious and pure, rose to the summit of the volcano they were now descending. Peering down, Phil could see people tending gardens at the base of the crater. No doubt the soil was rich and water close to the surface. This scene of domestic rural tranquillity was completed by canoes with young men and boys, diving and fishing for the harvest of the sea.

Phil snorted to himself. Yep, this is how the tourist would see it, if they ever came here. Fuck me dead, these people are mostly bored shitless. They dream of having batteries and kerosene, a cassette radio and beer, and medicines to cure even their often simple sicknesses. Paradise my arse!

Three hours after setting out from Lama, the utility rolled into the airstrip at Langu, and was soon parked outside Sandy Roberts’ house. Sandy had been in the Witu Islands since 1961, running the trade store and plantation set up by his grandfather in the early 1900’s. Now in his late sixties, he was balding, wafer thin and of medium height. He had not gone ‘troppo’ over the years, not as it seemed to Phil anyway. He had kept his mind active and read many books and travelled overseas frequently. He was not the hermit type. He thrived on company in fact, and to a casual observer, had many good qualities that Phil so obviously lacked.

‘Morning masta Phil how are you?’

‘Rooted. Any snorts ready?’

‘Come this way

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