From the highest peaks to darkest caves, White Rajas to Dyak head hunters,
Borneo is an island filled with mystery and steeped in conflicting traditions.
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"The Penan people of Borneo say that the forest and the earth will provide for you if only you will let them. I
hadn’t exactly found that to be true, but what did I know? I was an American, stopping briefly in their land and
ignorant of their ways."
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Mike Kardec is an adventurer, down on his luck, and stuck in the backwater port of Marudi on the Baram River.
"What money I had left had slowly trickled away; paid out … for food, drink, and quinine. I’ve heard it said
that, in the tropics, you rented your life from the devil malaria and quinine was the collector."
Fate offers him one last chance at fortune, as the guide for an American tourist …
“Are there diamonds up there? Gemstones?”
“There are,” I agreed, “but they are scattered and hard to find. Most of the stones are alluvial and are washed
out of the creeks back up river. Nobody has ever located their source.”
… and his wife.
“Us? I asked cautiously. “Your wife, too?”
“It’s our project, Mr. Kardec, “ Helen Lacklan said. She stretched out a long, firm hand to show me the ring …
an empty setting stared up at me like a blind eye. “We’re going to find the stone together.”
But when an irrational jealousy strikes John Lacklan, Kardec is fired before the trip can even begin and the
Lacklan’s leave town with another guide, a guide who has shown them a diamond that resembles a stone known to be
both mythic and notorious ...
"Then I had an awful premonition. Jeru was up to his old tricks again. 'Have it your own way, Lacklan. It
wouldn’t matter if you were going alone, but you’re taking your wife along.'
His face flamed and his eyes grew ugly. 'My wife is my own concern,' he said, 'and none of your affair.'"
Soon Kardec is headed up river to rescue the victims of a crime that has not yet happened; victims that he is
not even sure want or need to be rescued.
"… the river narrowed and grew increasingly swift. We were well into the … mountains, the rugged chain that is
the spine of Borneo and terminates in the thirteen-thousand- foot dome of Kinabalu. … At times we pushed through
patches of water flowers miles long and so thick it looked like we could have gotten out of the boat and walked.
I put on a bit more speed, for the motor would soon be useless in the rocks and shallower rapids …"
But high in the mountains, in a village abandoned because of plague, a mysterious warlord awaits them, a man
known to be a guerilla fighter, thought to have disappeared, or reputed to have died …
“… it said that Tuan Jeru is a bali salang, a black ghost, that he has killed many mans and taken their blood …”
And, above the steaming jungles, they are all headed for a showdown in the caves and on windswept slopes of
Borneo’s mountains. A showdown between husband and wife, between head hunter and the man who is a more honorable
adversary than the people he has kidnapped, between modern weapons and ancient magic …
"With a rush like a great wave crashing on a reef bats vomited from the cave … a great disoriented black cloud
that shot from the hole in the mountain top as if from a high pressure hose. … The boy scrambled away, sobbing.
There was a sound of gunfire. Helen was standing over me working the bolt of John’s rifle. Brass flew, bright
against the sky. Men fled downhill, disappearing into the trees …"
CLICK HERE - How an abandoned pulp story defied the odds and
kept reinventing itself in prose, film, and finally as an audio drama.