[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Revenge Should Have No Bounds 021
Chapter 8 (2 of 4): The Hero
“Palawan is an elongated sliver of beautiful island that shoots off the north-south vertical of the Philippines at about 220° and almost touches the tip of northern Borneo. Parts of it are pristine and beautiful beyond the descriptions of the travel brochures — and in its southern parts infested with avaricious and savage bandits of every ilk masquerading as ‘freedom fighters’, ‘environmentalists’, ‘warriors for God’, and all the usual dreary suspects. You’ve read about these groups in the newspapers.
“The Sultan of Java had landed himself in a truly tricky situation, one fraught with horrific danger both to himself and to others.
“He and some fellow investors from Europe and other parts of Asia had taken one of the family’s company jets — a Gulfstream — to Palawan to scout a site for erecting yet one more luxury tourist resort. It was a field already crowded, and they wanted to get in on the action before real saturation set in. While traveling by jeetney along this gorgeous jungle-clad Eden that was the shores of southeastern Palawan a snake entered this garden in the rag-tag and murderous shape of heavily armed ‘environmentalists’ who grandiosely tried to scrub off their filthy thuggery by designating themselves as ‘Friends of Palawan Preservation’, or FPP for short.
“The Sultan of Java and his investors had rented a motorized sixty-footer with captain and crew for a leisurely cruise from Puerto Princesa down through the emerald warmth of the Sulu Sea to the southern tip of Palawan. There they had put in to a village and secured a jeetney for closer inspection of potential beach properties. It was during this excursion that some gangsters from FPP had ‘detained’ them, and in order to demonstrate their seriousness they had shot one of the Norwegian investors in cold blood. Then they had picked my friend to hie it back to Puerto Princesa to secure ten million US dollars in ransom money ‘for the people’ that would secure the release of the rest of the group – which were of course being held as hostages to guarantee the Sultan’s return.
“He was not a man given to panic, and he sounded reasonably calm during our conversation. But he was unmistakably under pressure, and vowed to me he would do whatever was necessary to save his companions and his own honor.
“My first order of business was to be the arrangement of the cash through his bankers in New York, who were to have the money flown out – under heavy guard – in one of the company jets to Puerto Princesa. This would take at least forty-eight hours, but he had the means to signal his captors that their demands were being met.
“Next I was to get in touch with a younger brother I had once met briefly at one of the family compounds in the highlands of east-central Java and have him initiate what the Sultan called ‘The Wyang Caper’ — his brother would know what I meant and that I was for real in representing the Sultan. When I enquired about this “caper” my friend pleaded with me not to ask but merely to do. I would be safer that way, he responded ominously. It was not hard for me to imagine that ‘The Wyang Caper’ was some kind of rescue operation his family and company had arranged long ago for just this sort of emergency. I knew that the Sultan had served several years in the Indonesian navy between graduation from Oxford and starting his graduate work at M.I.T., and I assumed he had some fairly powerful contacts within the Indonesian military as well as private organizations of ‘international for-hire experts in violence’, as he had once referred to them in my presence.
“He was irrevocably committed to keeping the Philippine authorities out of the loop on this operation, the government not being the most reliable or secretive when it came to dealing with the bandits in the southern Mindanao region.”
By this point I was totally hooked. Indeed, I was eager to meet this remarkable man who had captivated my imagination.
“Well, I made my calls. With a terse thank you the Sultan’s brother assured me that things would gear up before I hung up the phone; and the banker I spoke to in New York, to whom I relayed the same code as verification, said the cash would be in Puerto Princesa within forty-eight hours.
“I could do no more, and tried to go about my business, anxiously awaiting further information about this dicey turn of events half way around the globe.
“For the next few days I could not get events in far-off Palawan out of my mind, but as the days wore on without further news one way or the other, I admit that I gave less and thought to that world. It was only about three months later that I received a coded communiqué from the Sultan in which he explained in broad outlines what had happened.
“After making his calls to me and to New York, he waited around in Puerto Princesa another forty-eight hours until the cash arrived in ten compact suitcases, each containing one hundred packets of one hundred used hundred-dollar bills each, neatly bundled and snugly stacked. A metal casing privately designed and manufactured for precisely this purpose held the ten suitcases. Agung had returned by chartered helicopter to southern Palawan and delivered the cash to his captors. They in turn had shot another hostage, a Japanese investor, to impress upon the remaining group that they were not to move from their present location for at least twenty-four hours, and then the thugs had set off into the remote recesses of the mountainous jungles.
“But many hundreds of miles south in the city of Pontianak on the west-central coast of Borneo, elite units of Indonesian marines and toughened mercenaries with hard eyes had been flown in from distant parts of Afghanistan and Angola to prepare for a massive invasion of the area held by the Philippine rebels. That the marines would undertake operations with mercenaries and that they would in effect invade a foreign country, however clandestinely, spoke volumes about the kind of juice the Sultan of Java and his people had with the military that just the past July had deposed the feckless Wahid and installed Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno’s daughter, as the new president of an imploding nation. The Sultan and his family had a large estate in Menteng, the same upscale suburb of Jakarta in which Mega herself lived.
“Extensively equipped with helicopters, coastal vessels, and lethal munitions by the United States, the invasion force had made a stealthy approach toward the target area by night and marshaled all forces on a tiny island lying in the extensive archipelago of the Balabac-Bugsuk group just off the southern tip of Palawan. As predetermined, the force arrived just in time at the marshaling point to receive coded satellite messages from the freed hostages as they finally made it to the shore-line about twenty miles south of a city named Valdez. This was the signal that they were safely away from the bandits and the operation proper could begin.
TO BE CONTINUED