Bill Meilen
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CHANGO JADE

 

Sun moved forward with the lamp held out to reveal an iron box, massive with bolts and rivets. It was very old, painted with gold and red and blue enamel that had chipped away in many places where the box had been dragged.

On the lid was the heraldic seal of the Family Chang in bas-relief brass. “Keys, Brother,” said Lee.

The two Chang brothers opened their tunic collars and lifted silver chains from about their necks. In the lid of the box were two keyholes. The brothers fitted the keys that were suspended from their neck chains, and turned them in unison with a single well oiled click. Cautiously Sun slid the blade of his knife into a slot in the edge of the lid and there was another click. With an effort he forced the lid up and open to rest against the rock face. The strongbox was half full of bars and lumps of gold bullion of various sizes, with a number of leather pouches. Without speaking, Sun lifted out the leather pouches and placed them on a side shelf. They made strange settling sounds as he put them down. Turning to his brother he took the bars of gold one by one and placed them into the strongbox as Lee produced them from beneath his robe. When he was finished with his brother, Sun took the gold from Loy and did the same until two hundred one-ounce bars had been counted into the chest. Picking up the pouches, he replaced all but one into the box. This pouch he handed to his brother.

Silently Lee opened the pouch and tipped a number of jade pieces on his palm, holding his hand out to his son. Loy looked from the jade pieces to his father’s eyes.

“Whichever piece you choose will be your fortune,” said his father. “Choose wisely.” He watched his son closely, having strong views on the symbology of selection. It was all part of his inherent respect for Feng Shui.

Loy bit his lip and stared at the pieces. Then throwing caution to the winds, reached out and picked a smooth jade pebble shaped like a teardrop, with a clear hole bored at the pointed end.

“I’ll take this one, Father,” he said, and held it against the flame of the lamp to see the light suffuse its edges. “I will never part with it.” It was glorious jade, with an air of age about it.

“If you do,” his uncle said sagely, “your luck will fly away just like that finch you had as a small boy. You will be bereft and unfortunate.” The soothsayer had spoken.

Lee closed the pouch and placed it in the strongbox to close the lid with a thud. “Keys,” he said shortly, and inserted his key in the left lock. His brother joined him and in unison they turned the levered tumblers that drove the brass bars across the inside of the lid to slide into their sockets with beautiful precision. With a flick of his knife in the edge of the box he clicked the second lock into position and put the knife away. “It is done, Brother,” he said with satisfaction. Without another word the three men skirted the edge of the cave and made their way out along the tunnel. Once outside in the morning light they let their eyes get accustomed to the glare, then moved the rock back into place, mortared it at its juncture with the rock, and repaired the broken moss with strips trimmed from surrounding growths. By the time they had raked the sand about the rocks with a handful of twigs, only a close

 

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