Episode Five: San Lin Tun takes us into the world of famous detective San Shar in 1930’s Rangoon, with his translation of Shwe U-Daung’s Thiksabauk Kinmyigauk (The Scorpion’s Traitor).
Postman Lar La Khan has suddenly disappeared on his mail run. On investigating, San Shar finds that all of Lar La Khan’s deliveries have been made but that he has not been seen again since heading towards a house, in Hteetan Street in Kyi Myin Taing, which is supposedly haunted by a poltergeist. The owner of this house, an Indian named Muhammed, tells San Shar that he has recently rented another house nearby. Muhammed gives San Shar the keys to house to investigate. In the house they find the postman propped against the wall dead. They left the body where it was and that night lay in wait for the murderer to return. They shoot him in the leg but he escapes. An Indian man is questioned about his involvement. He is a known member of the Scorpion’s Association. After a thrilling car chase, members of the gang escape from San Shar.
KoThain Maung, San’s Shar’s Dr. Watson, tells the story …
San Shar told Oebo Police Station Master, Government Inspector Maung Ohn Pe and myself that tonight all the members of Scorpion Association would be arrested. San Shar brought us to a small house in a compound that lay half a mile off the road. Inside there were eight chairs surrounded the large round table. In the middle of the ceiling was a manhole. San Shar got us to climb through, and when on the ceiling, he ordered us not to fire until his order.
That was near ten o’clock and we poked our heads out from the hole, and with our pistols we waited for our enemies. As soon as it struck twelve o’clock, we heard a car stop outside, on Pyi Road. We heard approaching steps, so we waited with cocked guns. After a while, some people ascended the steps to the house, and a person turned on the table lamp. We saw four people draped in black robes from head to ankle. They sat silently in each chair. One person occasionally took out a watch, and looked at it. The others sat still like statues.
Five minutes later, we heard the second car pull up on the street. After a while, another robe-draped person brought in an Indian whose hands were tied behind his back. Then one of the men asked the Indian in English, “Mukargyi. You know how we deal with a traitor?”
“You tried to escape us, could you do that?”
“You planned to rob the important paper on the way, didn’t you. And ou killed the postman to get the paper, right?”
“That night we tried to kill you, but it was your accomplice Sannaelbarbu who died. Do you want
to die with gun like Sannaelbarbu or by our association’s tradition?”
“I prefer tradition.”
“Okay, we’ll deal with you later. The man who caught you isn’t known to us, and we haven’t seen his face yet. All right, friend. Let us know your name to record in our association.”
He replied, “Banargyi.” Then, the one who asked the question told him:
“We want to see your face rather than knowing your name.”
Then, that man stood up suddenly and revealed his hood. The man was not any other person but our friend San Shar. We were flabbergasted, and unanimously exclaimed, “It’s San Shar.”
San Shar smiled and took out his pistol suddenly. But, the one near him had a swift hand, and hit the gun so that San Shar lost it, and they tried to catch him. Then Ko Ohn Pe fired his gun and quickly said, “Hold up your hands. If not, I’ll shoot.” They looked up at the ceiling, and saw our gun barrels, so they held their hands up one after another. We jumped down from the ceiling, and tied them up in pairs, put them in the car and left for the city. On the way…
I:” How did you manage to gather them?”
Shar: “Not so hard. I managed to catch Mukargyi who killed Lar La Khan. He was also an old member, but had a problem with betrayal. And I thought that it’d better if I caught the whole gang when I caught him. So, I persuaded him to disclose secret facts about their gang. I myself became a member and I told them I’d catch Mukargyi. I sent them a letter with, day, time, house and place. They came here according to the schedule. ”
Pe: “Just wait. Are they all of their members?”
Shar: “Not all. I’ve caught them before. This time four persons. I think there are six left.”
Pe: “So, why didn’t you make an appointment to bring them all?”
Shar: “They don’t even know who they are. But, don’t worry. One day they will fall into our net.”
Shwe U-Daung (1889-1973) was a pro-Burmese writer and translator, who in the 1930s adapted many of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, placing them in the setting of the author’s Rangoon. Next month, we start another original San Shar story, ‘Murder On Pansodan Street’.
This article was previously published in MYANMORE’s monthly lifestyle magazine, InDepth #15, January 2016.