The Land of Gold
If an island paradise existed anywhere, it was
surely in the Indonesian island of Mapura, where Peter Henshall joins
the first Europeans to enter a country abandoned by the Dutch some
thirty years before.
Henshall has no time for his fellow explorers,
but the alluring figure of Hartini Sujono, a local nightclub singer, is
sufficient to draw him on into the web of danger and deceit. Mapura is
not the land of gold, she tells him, but the land of shadows, and
gradually the consequences of past horrors begin to emerge: the brutal
Japanese invasion, and the blood-letting of the 1965 abortive communist
coup, in which thousands perished throughout the archipelago. Deep in
the interior lies the forbidding mine of Tambang Surga, where a large
gold consignment lies buried in underground workings. His associates
help, confuse and hinder Henshall in his attempts to mount a proper
search for the lost millions. Even Hartini, he comes to realize, is no
less a shadow puppet controlled by outside forces than Henshall himself
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CHAPTER ONE (Opening)
mist surrounded the guest-house when Henshall woke the following
morning. He pulled on a
sweater and sat on the veranda, ordering
a nasi goreng when the houseboy appeared under a
dripping green umbrella.
A couple of women went by with bundles of vegetables on their heads,
were several of the small dogs of Bali, padding warily past with their
craven and preoccupied air. Though it grew increasingly chilly as he
his meal, he packed the motorbike panniers just the same, tucking the
pads into plastic bags, and set off for the interior.
three he was back at the Kuta Beach Hotel, with the singer of the
night still large in his thoughts as he joined a group of residents
from rained-off tours. A
weak sun glowed on the metal table, where he sat with a couple of
comparing handicraft prices. Henshall drank his tea slowly, and leafed
the guidebook, wondering who’d advise him on the village festivals so
photographed. When the two left, still complaining about local
Henshall continued reading and wasn’t sure what the voice had asked, or
it had asked anything at all. ‘You’re more than welcome’, he said. ‘I’m
shortly.’ The woman laughed and said, ‘That’s not what I meant.’
surprise showed, for the face gleamed with mischief, the water
the long eyelashes. 'You don’t recognize me, but I know you.’
Henshall opened his mouth to
reply, but she was already sauntering back to the swimming pool. All
and the days following, Henshall could see in his mind the
with the dark eyes, the features laughing at him, but their owner
It was at a small village in the hills where he
was sketching four of the little girls waiting to receive a sprinkling
of holy water before their Legong dance, that
someone settled beside him and took the pad from his hand. He knew the
identity, even before the playful voice said, 'This will get you into
trouble, my friend.' Henshall let her flip through the sketch pad,
turning the pages round to study them carefully. 'Where am I?' she
asked. 'These aren't bad, but what have you done with me?' Henshall
explained that her studies were in another pad, a smaller one he kept
for social occasions. For spying, she decided: why else would he draw?
'It's harmless enough', said Henshall. 'Trains
'It is not harmless to us.'
'Something to talk about at lunch perhaps?'
'Oh that is much too forward', she said, pulling
a face. 'You must introduce yourself properly when you invite someone
out in Bali.'
'Peter Henshall. Whom do I have the pleasure of
'Hartini Sujono', replied the woman, now
springing to her feet.
When they were sat in a local eating-house,
Hartini prodding the old crone into frying some fish and sending off
for fresh papaya, Henshall could look more closely at the arrival. Not
wholly Javanese, he realized, but taller, a straighter nose and jaw,
with a warmer complexion, and an openness that seemed to surround and
take possession of what he was saying—when it cared to, and wasn't
holding itself for his inspection and admiration. Henshall brought the
conversation back to their surroundings, to the village with its
straggle of dusty coconut palms and the rice fields that towered above
them, fresh and green in the afternoon light.
'Think I was looking for you?' countered the
head, turning on him again.
'Just wondered how you got here.'
'Hired a car. You came here yesterday as well,
didn't you?' She pointed a fork. 'The young man who makes pictures.'