Superintendent Shum hated loose ends and until he could account for Lansard Jr. he couldn’t close the file. Not surprisingly, enquiries with the Indonesian police produced nothing other than the man had arrived in Bali but his whereabouts were unknown. They were currently conducting a check on all the hotels and beach resorts. Shum wondered about the advisability of travelling to Bali to track down Lansard himself. The man might well be innocent of any crime his father had committed, but until it was all on record he was still a suspect in the disappearance of Baker.
He spoke to his boss, a senior Superintendent, about the idea and much to his surprise a few days later he received a phone call from the man telling him that it had been approved. He would have to take someone with him and he could select his own companion. He was to contact Central Admin for travel costs and a budget.
On the appointed day Yudianto arrived at Lansard’s hotel with a small travel bag. Lansard himself had been told to travel light as everything would be provided on the island. However, he had no idea that Yudianto would be travelling with them.
“We will meet them at the pier,” Yudianto told Lansard as he handed in his room key. Yudianto had already arranged a hire car for them and they were soon on their way.
“Have you hurt yourself,” asked Lansard. He was looking at a clean bandage on Yudianto’s right arm.
“Just a burn,” he replied. “Last night when I was cooking dinner.”
The matter was forgotten and Lansard concentrated on everything he knew so far and everything he hoped for in the coming few days. Wibawa’s son had told him he could expect to be on the island for about three days. Soon they were aboard a motorised KLM, a general-purpose boat used for both tourism and trading amongst the islands.
Unlike in his father’s day, there were now regular cruise ships plying the route between Bali and Komodo. Scuba divers, holidaymakers and adventure speakers all made their way to the island and what trip to Komodo would be complete without seeing a Komodo Dragon.
As much of the island had been declared country park Lansard wondered whether or not they would have the privacy to conduct whatever ceremony Wibawa was planning. He remembered his father’s description of the ceremony he attended and did not want to think about the finer points. He would go along with whatever Wibawa demanded if it was to rid him of this curse.
He was given a cabin to himself and he tried to sleep away his anxiety. The next few days would fix all the problems and he could get on with a very long life without suffering the curse that had destroyed his father. Eventually, he slept.
After two days at sea and a relatively peaceful passage, they landed about halfway along the western coast of the island from the Sape Straights. The landing was made at a secluded beach and they went ashore by motorised boat. Once all their belongings and equipment were gathered on the beach they started inland. Lansard had no idea of where he was in relation to Komodo Village, the main area of the eastern side of the island and could only trust his companions.
Superintendent Shum and Sergeant Wong of the Hong Kong Police were met at Denpasar Airport by Major Suwanto who greeted him formally on behalf of the Indonesian Police Force. International Police protocol dictated that Shum’s Liaison would have to be an officer of similar rank. To send someone of lower rank would be an insult and of higher rank, intimidation. As the Indonesian Police followed military ranks he assumed that a major was similar to a Superintendent.
Once the formalities were over they went first to Police Headquarters so that Shum could present his credentials. Major Suwanto, he was told, would be his liaison while he was here in Bali and for reasons of his own safety he was to inform the Major of his movements. Of course, the Indonesian Police would provide all necessary assistance in his enquiries. Shum and Wong were then taken to a budget hotel on Kuta Beach where they were allowed to settle in. Suwanto promised to call for them first thing in the morning so they could start their investigation.
Their first task would be to visit some of the more likely hotels and resorts with a photo of Lansard taken from his Hong Kong Identity Card. They had to assume that he was now travelling under an assumed name and were hoping that someone might recognise him from the photo.
About the same time, Shum and Wong were checking into their hotel Lansard and Wibawa’s party, which consisted of himself, his son, Yudianto and four porters were making camp for the night. They prepared simple bedrolls for themselves and a small tent for Lansard. Later they brought him some food. He watched from the flap of his tent while Wibawa, his son, Yudianto and one of the porters sat around the cooking fire and talked in hushed voices. He was tempted to join them but decided that if they wanted his company they would have asked him. At one point he walked into the undergrowth to relieve himself and one of the porters materialised beside him. The man motioned into the bushes and drew his hand across his throat. There was danger amongst the trees, he was telling Lansard. The man watched him as he walked back to his tent.
Later that night Yudianto came to him and told him that they would reach their destination tomorrow afternoon. The man looked drawn but Lansard knew little of the Balinese culture and habits. He was still wearing the bandage on his arm and Lansard asked him if it was healing. Yudianto looked down at it as if in surprise and muttered something about it being much better. Then he returned to the cooking fire.
The following morning they set off before first light. They still had some way to go and Wibawa told him that they must arrive early enough to set things up. They walked single file, Wibawa moving quite spritely for a man of his supposed age. Yudianto walked in the company of Wibawa’s son and Lansard noticed that he had removed the bandage. The wound had not been a burn, of that Lansard was sure.
They stopped briefly and ate some bread they had brought along in their supplies and rice saved from last night’s meal. Then after resting for only a few moments, they carried on. Finally, they arrived at a clearing and Wibawa gave instructions to the porters. Lansard was led to the shade of a tree where he sat, watched over by Yudianto and one of the porters.
(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