The next few weeks flew by, happily for Paula once she realised that her ordeal with Baker was actually over, and grindingly slow for the officers of the Predator Taskforce. Moral was down and Shum tried to keep them busy with make-shift duties. Also, his superiors were pushing for results and there was every possibility that he would be replaced by someone with more seniority. He had built up a rapport with his team and he knew that at this stage it could only have a detrimental effect.
In his office in Sheung Wan, Lansard was going through his case files. There was actually very little work in hand. He had intentionally delayed any action on Baker’s case, he doubted that an appeal would produce any results. Also, he had tired of Baker’s attitude and foul manners. He began to think of a way in which Baker might fulfil his financial obligations, whether he wanted to or not.
Lansard remembered the day when Baker had walked through his door. There was no referral or prior communication, he had just sought him out through the Law List, a directory created by the Law Association, and decided on Lansard, Solicitor. Lansard had listened to his plaint and accepted the job. Baker had paid $50,000 as a retainer and Lansard had proceeded with the creation of the writ and summons and other legal matters.
He was unsure as to why he had taken the case. Perhaps he saw in Baker a person that might be of use to him at some time in the future. Now he knew.
He picked up his phone and called Baker’s number. After a series of assistants and secretaries, designed no doubt, to present Baker as a busy and successful man, he had picked up the call.
Without preamble, Lansard told him that he was still awaiting payment. Baker stumbled around various excuses and assured the solicitor that he wasn’t avoiding payment. It would be made soon, he said.
“Why don’t we think of an alternative that might make up at least part of the amount,” said Lansard. This immediately caught Baker’s attention.
“I’m listening.” He said.
“Why don’t we meet for a discussion,” Lansard said in a conversational tone. “I can give you my thoughts on the matter and we can chew it over.” He smiled at the use of the phrase.
The conversation over, he hung up the phone and sat back in his chair. He checked the fingernail and noticed that the one on the ring finger was also showing signs of deformation. Things were happening more frequently and the change was coming on faster than before. He wondered how long it would be before he joined his father in his private hell. A peculiar taste in his mouth told him that his decision with Baker might, in fact, be timely.
It was the saliva, it was all in the saliva, his father had told him. The blessing, and the curse!
It was 1894 when Gregory Lansard met the mystic on the island of Bali. The man was reputed to be well over 150 years of age and Lansard wanted to know his secret. What he was not prepared for was the man’s appearance. His hands were the most remarkable feature in that they were elongated, leathery in appearance and clawed. Or at least that was what Lansard thought he saw. He was invited to sit with the man and they communicated through an interpreter. The strange thing was that the longer Lansard sat with him the more normal the man became. Or appeared to become.
It was the first of many meetings, in fact, it was several months before the mystic was prepared to impart anything of value. Yes, he was, he believed, something in the region of 167 years old. Yes, he did achieve this age due to some wizardry and yes, he was prepared to reveal the secret to Lansard.
Was Lansard, the mystic who went by the name of Wibawa, prepared to pay the cost. Monetarily, Lansard still had hidden reserves, how he came about his fortune he never revealed to his son and Lansard Jr., although curious, didn’t want to push the issue. Wibawa however, was not concerned about money. He wanted something more.
From a beautiful white beach on Bali Lansard boarded a trading pinisi in the company of Wibawa and three of his disciples and Lansard’s servant, a man named Subaya, who also acted as his interpreter, for the island of Komodo. There, Wibawa promised Lansard he would reveal his secret.
The wind was favourable and they arrived within a few days. Disembarking they walked up the trail which led to a sizeable village. They were greeted with some suspicion, Wibawa with silent and what Lansard recognised as a guarded respect. The man appeared normal to his eyes but he noticed the children of the village would hide behind their semi-nude mothers.
The hut that they had been assigned contained only one large room which they would have to share. Payment was made with the goods that Lansard had been instructed to supply, grains and cloth, metal that could be beaten into tools and weapons. That night was when Lansard was asked to make his final decision, once made there was no going back. He was given a corner of the hut and his servant arranged his belongings around him.
Later that night Wibawa left the hut and returned, silently after Lansard had fallen into a nightmarish slumber. The next morning the villagers brought them maize for their breakfast and Lansard noticed that his companion didn’t eat. He also noticed how much younger the old man was looking.
They had to prepare for a trek into the centre of the island. Wibawa’s men arranged sacks of grain and maize and a few chickens as supplies. The next day they set off. There were six in the party, Wibawa, his three assistants, Lansard and his visibly afraid servant.
They trekked for two days and at some point in a clearing Wibaya announced that they had arrived. He told Lansard to prepare himself by washing in a nearby creek. If Lansard had any thoughts of changing his mind they diminished when he realised that Wibawa’s men were watching every move he made. Subaya, his servant, now almost grey with fear, remained in the camp.
That night the ceremony took place.
(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2017 – Not for Distribution
The Featured photo is by Mark Dumont – Flickr: There Be Dragons, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25935468