“Garuda Airlines flight number GA857 from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali is now boarding at Gate 37. Passengers for Flight number GA857 from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali should now make their way to Gate 37. Please have your boarding passes ready.”
The same afternoon when PC Suen had shot his father, Roger Lansard was actually sitting in the departure lounge next to Gate 37 at Hong Kong International Airport. All he had to do was pick up his hand baggage and make his way over. He closed the folder he had been re-reading for the fourth time and placed it carefully in his holdall. He would read it yet again once he was on the plane. It was a report compiled for him at considerable expense by a firm of private investigators. He had commissioned the report some months ago in preparation for this very day.
Kane International Investigations were among the most expensive of the inquiry agents but its reputation was well-founded. They had routed out not one but several individuals by the name of Wibawa on the island of Bali, three of them over the age of 80 years. Lansard hoped that one of them would be either ‘the’ Wibawa who had converted his father, or one of his offspring. Lansard also hoped that when, having found the right Wibawa, the man would be able to show him how to overcome the effects of what he now considered a curse. His father, Gregory Lansard, had sought the elixir of eternal life but had no idea of the cost it would have on his soul or that of his son. Roger was under no illusions that while he might survive well into the next century he had no wish to end his days as a lizard.
Lansard settled into his Business Class seat, the folder on his lap and accepted the glass of chilled Chablis from the stewardess. He was not aware of what had transpired at this father’s apartment. He had listened to the local news channels but had no knowledge of Shum’s media block. After disposing of the remains of their feast he had moved into temporary accommodation. He had already booked this flight well in advance. Everything was falling into place.
Superintendent Shum and the Predator Taskforce had a dilemma on their hands. They should have been announcing proudly that they had discovered the identity of the serial murderer known as the Predator and that due to rapid police action they had acted on the intelligence obtained, and neutralised the threat. What they were not prepared for was the fact that the ‘threat’ resembled a man-shaped Komodo Dragon. In fact, the autopsy had found that the blood and tissue examined showed that the corpse was more reptilian than man. Peter Leung wisely declined to put forward any theories.
In the meantime they were also looking for Roger Lansard, too late they had checked the airlines and found that found the man had departed for Bali the day before. They would contact the Indonesian Police and request his arrest and extradition on suspicion of murder. Whether that would produce any results was anyone’s guess. The cooperation between the two police forces was not good.
Shum wrote a glowing report for Jacky Chan and released him back to the Kowloon City Police Station. Jacky was pleased to be back in his home territory. In truth, he had played little part in the Taskforce and had arrived after the crime scene had been secured. Peter Leung was also released on the understanding that he might be called upon at any moment to give evidence. Every officer attached to the Predator Taskforce was sworn to secrecy. However, the chances of a leak were huge as some of the local officers had seen the thing on the floor next to their colleagues. It was only a matter of time before one of them got drunk and told someone, who told someone else, who had a friend in the media.
On his arrival in Bali, Roger Lansard headed for a small hotel in Kuta Beach, the ‘hippy’ and budget traveller area. He could afford very much better but if the Hong Kong Police were looking for him, which they were regarding Baker’s disappearance, then it was wise not to leave such an obvious trail.
The generous fees that he had paid to Kane International paid off and he was able to contact their Balinese agent. The man would take him in person to visit the people they had identified as possibly being the Wibawa his father had met all those years ago.
Of course, if the man was still alive he would be something in the region of 200 years old. All the more reason to find him, although Roger Lansard’s quest was not for eternal life but to avoid the curse that had slowly destroyed his father.
The agent, a young man by the name of Yudianto, met him at the hotel and presented a copy of the same information that Roger Lansard had obtained. Together they went through the file and from what Lansard was able to reveal from his father’s story, they narrowed down the likely targets. The first on the list lived in the hill provinces, a two-hour drive. They set off the following morning.
It seemed that fate had drawn Roger Lansard to Wibawa. After a drive through sculptured fields that would have delighted any tourist, they arrived at the village. The village consisted of perhaps a dozen stilt houses on either side of the road. These were not the dilapidated nipa huts that he expected, but well-built versions with electricity and indoor plumbing. Yudianto pulled over and asked a villager. At the name, Wibawa, the man’s face darkened but he pointed to a hut some doors down. Yudianto parked the car outside and they alighted.
A man about the same age as Lansard was sitting on the steps leading up to the house and he rose as he and Yudianto approached. Yudianto explained that they were looking for Wibawa and that they believed he was an old friend of the visitor’s father. The man asked for Lansard’s name and told them to wait while he entered the house.
They heard someone talking within the house and after a few moments, an old man walked out of the door and stood, looking down at them from the top of the stairs. His eyes sought out Lansard’s and he fixed the Westerner with a piercing stare. After a few seconds, he turned to the younger man who was standing behind him, said something, and went back inside. In near-perfect English, the man asked Lansard and Yudianto to enter the house.
Yes, he was the same Wibawa that Roger’s father had met all those years ago. Lansard did some quick mental maths and realised that the man had to be well over 160 years of age. Almost as if reading his mind, Wibawa’s companion said, “My father is almost 200 years old. We cannot be sure as he does not know the date of his birth. When your father met him he was already in his 70s.
“He has the gift of long life,” said Lansard, “but what about the curse? The curse that destroyed my father and will probably destroy me if I do not find an answer.”
Yudianto was looking extremely uncomfortable and told Lansard that he would wait for him in the car. The man was unsure of what was being discussed here but was completely sure he didn’t want to know any more than was necessary.
The old man spoke through his younger companion, “Tell me,” he asked. “How much did your father tell you of the dragons he saw at the ceremony?”
Roger Lansard wracked his brains for any details his father might have mentioned. “He said very little about them. Other than the fact that they were enormous.” He eventually replied, truthfully.
Wibawa grinned broadly. He spoke directly to Lansard for the first time. “They were not ordinary Komodo Dragons,” he said. “They were gods of their kind. I lived with them, studied them and venerated them, and they gave me this gift.”
“But why haven’t you been cursed as well? Why didn’t you turn like my father?”
Still grinning broadly, Wibawa replied that there was much to explain, to impart. Did Lansard want to overcome the curse, he asked. What was he prepared to sacrifice?
Lansard was suddenly thankful that Yudianto had left them in private. He looked at Wibawa, meeting his piercing eyes and said, “Whatever I need to do, whatever I need to sacrifice, I will.”
Wibawa and the younger man had a brief discussion and then he rose to return to a room inside the house. The young man said, “Mr. Lansard, I am Wibawa’s son. In three days’ time, we will travel to the island of Komodo. You will accompany us and there you will find your answers.” Then he showed Lansard out and watched as he returned to the car. Yudianto drove him back to his hotel.
(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