Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (19)

In the small house that she had once shared with her parents, Ramani set the kitchen table with a place for one, just as she had almost every day since her son left for Jakarta, five years earlier. It was only on those rare occasions when Anath paid her a visit that the household would bloom in rediscovery of its former life; the food shelves becoming stocked once more with an array of spices and other tasty ingredients. And his visits were infrequent because whilst he adored his mother, he was reminded each time he returned there of the relentless torment he had suffered when growing up in the Kampung and its environs.

When he did manage to visit, Ramani always ensured that her boy was offered the full range of all his favourite local recipes – tastes he often yearned for during the quiet evenings that shaped his frugal existence in the capital. But today she was alone and disinclined to waste time preparing something special, just for herself. So, on what had started out as another ordinary Sunday, she sat down after a morning’s housework to savour a simple meal of ikan asin with steamed rice. Taking her food in the silence, she stared intently at the framed picture of her son that she had kept on top of the kitchen table ever since his departure. Ramani’s thoughts now drifted off, in reflection of that strange day, during his adolescence, when Anath had done something so completely out of character, being no longer able to prevent the anger that was simmering inside from finally boiling over…

…She rushed from the kitchen to the front door of the house, a loud and incessant rapping on its flimsy wooden panels summoning her urgent attention. Opening it, she was instantly taken aback by the sight of one of the village elders clutching her son by the collar. The boy’s head was bowed, in apparent shame. “I hope that in future you will find some way of teaching this…this bandel better manners,” the man spat, unkindly. A look of contempt was writ large across his face. “What happened..? Anath..?” she enquired, her voice trembling with concern. “I’m sorry, Moth –…” But the unforgiving elder had already cut him off: “Not only has he been throwing stones – breaking windows at the academy, would you believe?” he lectured. “But when I caught him, instead of feeling ashamed and apologising for his behaviour, he told me in no uncertain terms to mind my own business. And I could then scarcely believe my ears when he compounded his crime by insulting me.” The old man turned to glare at Anath. “He called me a mongrel!” “Anath! Is this true?” his mother enquired, looking surprised. But while she might have been genuinely shocked that her son would ever vandalise property, her response to his throwing an insult such as this – especially at someone of high office – was somewhat different. There was in fact a large part of her that found a certain amusement in the whole scenario, forcing her to stifle an inappropriate smile. Instead, she now began to publicly express her dismay that her generally well behaved son had apparently let himself down, when, suddenly pulling free of the man’s clutches, Anath pushed roughly past her, disappearing inside the house before slamming shut his bedroom door. “I’m terribly sorry, ’Pak,” she now offered, with a degree of fake sincerity. “I will deal with him and pay for…” But the man had already shown her his back and was now traipsing away, down the short path that led out of her modest property. He did not want to hear her promises – assumed she could not, in any event, afford to reimburse the trustees of the academy for the damage her son had inflicted. More than this, though, he was secretly pleased that the bastard kid had screwed up. Avoiding her platitudes meant that he would be able to express the full extent of his indignation to all who would listen. And he knew there were many villagers who would. Indeed, the elder would be seeking to make much of today’s events for some time to come…

…She turned the handle of his bedroom door, only to find it locked. “Anath? Open the door,” she instructed, a little too sternly at first. Then, on hearing the sobs from within, she pleaded with her troubled son in a gentler tone. After a few moments’ silence she heard a rustling and then his bare footsteps slapping on the tiled floor within. The key turned in the lock, and she pushed open the door to enter. Anath was lying on his bed, on top of the sheets, curled in a ball. His face was turned away from her, towards the wall. She could hear that he was still weeping. Sitting on the edge of his bed, she listened as her son began his explanation. “I’m sorry, ’Bu. I’m so sorry,” he sobbed. “But I want a father, like all the other boys. Where is my dad? Why did he go away? Did I do something wrong – was it because of me?” “Shhh…” she soothed him, now gently stroking his back. “I understand how you feel, my son. Hush, now… You’ll just have to be patient – wait until you’re older, when you can go and find him. It’s too complicated for me to explain. I also went through the pain you’re feeling – felt lost when I knew I couldn’t reach him, that I would probably never see him again. I even banged my fists into my own father’s chest: blamed him for everything, for what I saw as his betrayal. And then I turned my anger towards your father, the man I still love. Because he never came for me when I prayed above everything else that he would. He never even wrote me a letter, or asked about you. But then, over time, I realised that the only person to blame was myself. I allowed the situation to happen. Encouraged it, even. But I can assure you of one thing.” She paused. “What’s that?” the boy, now comforted by her wisdom, then asked. “I don’t regret it,” she replied.

posted by Kirk at 9:10 pm  

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (18)

From his aisle seat towards the middle of the aircraft, Adi spotted the Captain settling into his business class seat. Suited and booted in full military garb, the ice-cold officer was also sporting his trademark glare. All around him, the other passengers became visibly twitchy at his presence, nervously trying to avoid eye contact. They were intimidated as much by the mere sight of his uniform as the undisguised aggression he cast. For, in a country whose army had fought most of its campaigns against its own unarmed civilians, generations of ordinary folk had passed down their instinctive aversion to a brush with the callous brutes who comprised the motley agglomeration of bullies known as ABRI. Aware that officer rank could be bought as readily as it was earned, Captain Farid’s fellow passengers were, on this occasion, moved by his supercilious demeanour to assume that the menacing figure now sat in their midst had taken the less strenuous route to his stripes. It was fortunate for them, however, that they could not be aware of the extent to which this heartless officer was capable of inflicting cruelty on their kind.

The short domestic flight was an uneventful bore. Adi fidgeted in the confinement, anxious to disembark and resume his mission. Mid-flight, the situation was momentarily rescued by a charming pramugari who served him a generous pouring of the luke warm, over-brewed cup of tea-coffee hybrid that was standard fare on Indonesia’s fledgling private domestic airlines. At his request, she further obliged the confident young Detective by supplying her cell phone number, after which he began to make arrangements for them to meet when they both returned to the capital. It was not for Adi to waste such an obvious chance to further sow his seed.

The plane seemed to take an age to reach the terminal after finally touching down in the Central Java provincial capital of Yogyakarta. Feeling a slight bump as it nosed up to the stand, Adi unbuckled and was quickly out of his seat, ensuring that he would be the first among the contingent of economy class passengers to disembark. Cautiously, he took the opportunity to peer around the concertinaed curtain, spying up ahead the Captain’s uniformed back as it disappeared through the exit door. Back in Jakarta – encouraged, no doubt, by a steady supply of hard currency – the driver was meanwhile proving to be a highly resourceful informant, gathering quality information without raising suspicion. And it was his text message that now startled the Detective when suddenly announcing itself with a harsh beep on his freshly activated cell phone. Adi was beginning to warm to this man, whose initial reticence had been supplanted by enthusiastic participation in the quest to snare his heartless boss. Through the information that this particular message conveyed, Adi was able to pursue his quarry to a luxury Parangtritis hideaway. And so, after a ride of approximately ninety minutes along the twisting and pot-holed road that connected the two towns, Adi checked into a room in the Duta Satya hotel.

By now it was late afternoon and he unpacked hurriedly, returning smartly to the ornate lobby, where the five star establishment’s efficient staff were busy attending to the increasingly unreasonable demands of its pampered, yet permanently dissatisfied, guests. Adi ordered a drink and positioned himself strategically, so as to observe the comings and goings of the Captain and his swarthy Latin accomplices. He now relaxed a little, pleased that at last there was the prospect of some genuine action. He had not waited long when he saw the officer emerge from the bank of lifts and approach a corpulent cigar-smoker who was seated with his back to him in a corner of the lobby bar, facing the window. The pair greeted one another with a bear hug and kisses on both cheeks. Although out of earshot, Adi noted from their mutual back-slapping that the two men were highly comfortable in each other’s presence: that they had overcome any mistrust one side or other might have felt at the outset of a relationship such as theirs. He took this as an indication that they had been business associates for some considerable time, as indeed the driver informant had previously intimated.

And it was in this very instant that Detective Adi finally made his confession, admitting to himself something that, secretly, he already knew he was contemplating. For a defining moment lay ahead: a fork in the road of destiny, no less, where his future direction would be determined, one way or another. This case was without doubt, he realised, developing into the biggest of his career to date, and a large part of him sought to adopt a textbook approach in bringing it to a conclusion. His rational side told him to trap his prey through the careful assimilation of sufficient hard evidence, facilitating legitimate arrest. A promotion would surely follow, launching him on a glittering career as the famed Detective who uncovered ABRI’s illicit weapons trading: the man who faced down the terror unleashed by its perpetrators and brought the unholy alliance of the despicable Captain Farid and his Colombian clientele to a crashing end, in joint victory for people and state.

But there was another, strong lure that had been nagging at him ever since the Chief Inspector had called him into his office and presented the simple facts of the case as they were then known. Arms dealing involved money. Lots of it. And recently, Adi had been wondering whether securing a share of this prize was not, in fact, a more appropriate reward for his efforts. Because whatever his next moves were, they would inevitably cast him in the way of great danger, would present him with the hardest challenge he had ever faced in his young life, and would require all the guts his strong body – and moreover his mind – could muster. Sure: promotion would be a certain kind of reward, he now reflected, but was there anything better than wealth? The possession of a fortune that would enable him to live out all his wildest dreams? A stash that, in all likelihood, would be sufficient to last a lifetime?

As he pondered, his eyes staring absently at the glass in his hand, a burst of laughter rang out from the corner of the bar, where the two men had just chinked together heavy crystal goblets of the finest Armagnac, in celebration of the cementing of their latest contract.

posted by Kirk at 9:48 pm  

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (17)

Adi looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and beamed. Smothered in thick white foam, his chin reflected the white-blue light from a fluorescent tube: his perfect teeth shone only slightly less brilliantly. He had been deliberately easy on himself during his dawn workout, in order to leave some mid-morning energy for the girl who was now lying exhausted – and thrilled, he decided – on his bed in the adjoining room. When I die I want to come back as another gigolo Detective, he laughed, inwardly. Picking up his razor, he made a few splashes in the water-filled basin before raising it to his chin, carefully drawing it across the soapy stubble in strokes that followed the same pattern, day in, day out. Gradually, the foam was erased to expose the chiselled features that lay hidden beneath. The owner of a torso that women found irresistible, this athletic young man’s fitness level had reached a peak he would find hard to maintain throughout the rest of his life. Detective Adi Dharsta also possessed a clarity of purpose to match: in short, he was a man at the top of his game. And this was indeed fortunate, because today he would be needing to keep his wits about him.

The driver had spilled some interesting recollections of conversations overheard, of the shady characters the Captain sometimes met and of secret places to which he had been instructed to drive. But there were large gaps in this willing informant’s knowledge that Adi accepted as genuine, and to which he believed the answers could only be found through a visit to the coastal resort of Parangtritis. And so today, Adi would be boarding the same flight the Captain would take, and tail the man he had now heard described, over and again, as a heartless killer. A brutal and ruthless bully fuelled by a desire to inflict pain. A man who was unafraid to seek out and challenge any threat, however real or perceived, and who revelled in violence.

Adi rubbed a mildly scented cleansing gel into the pores of his freshly shaved cheeks before turning his attention to his hair, into which he worked a forming cream. His expert fingers curled the black locks into stylish tufts. Casting his gaze down to study his well-formed abdomen, where not an ounce of fat revealed itself, his thoughts returned to indulgent self-admiration. This is an invincible body, he determined. And then in the steamy silence, he looked himself directly in his mirrored eye… Fearless… I am a fearless and lucky man… he whispered, preparing himself for the hostility he did not doubt was to come… Stay lucky… Stay lucky, my boy… he continued to mouth, silently, his eyes now glazing over, his mind taking him somewhere else: to another, darker place. Adi quickly jolted himself from the strange, unfamiliar sensation that had begun to encroach – terror? – and instead sought urgent distraction. Returning to the bedroom to dress, he surveyed the nymph’s lithe body purring in a shallow slumber on his mattress. There it was. The poor girl had fallen asleep instantly at the end of their intense coupling, which it seemed to her had lasted the entire morning. Perhaps I took as much from Friday as she sucked out of me, the Detective grinned, his boyish mischief announcing a welcome return. Now unable to resist stroking a finger between her legs, Adi unintentionally roused her, the girl waking with a start. “Sorry, babe,” he whispered, as she turned away, moaning her objection to this rude intrusion – surely unnecessary, she felt, after their earlier excesses.

He dressed smartly for his journey in a light suit, worn over an open-necked shirt. With the aid of a shoehorn, he slipped on his favourite brogues, careful not to tread down the heel. A small, pre-packed overnight bag was situated by the door, which he picked up before quietly leaving, blowing a kiss on his way, in the direction of the girl’s naked back. ‘Friday’ was one of no fewer than six regular girlfriends he trusted with a key to his apartment. There had been seven, but Wednesday’s nose had detected his secret stash of Kretek, which the girl could not then resist pilfering. Living a simple bachelor’s existence, Adi had few possessions that were worth stealing: but he demanded honesty, refused to live within a cauldron of suspicion. And so there were presently just six, while he sought a midweek replacement. Six stunning local beauties who vied for his attention, each one accepting they were not the sole proprietor of this desirable property: that there were doubtless many others. And if one of them mistakenly turned up on the wrong day, while he laid in tryst with another? Well in that event, the cocksure Detective was certain that an accommodation could be made. He looked forward with considerable relish, in fact, to its inevitable occurrence.

posted by Kirk at 10:03 pm  

Friday, December 21, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (16)

Daman’s joints creaked as he rose and patted the grass from the back of his trousers, dislodging a few dried-out wisps. Although mentally exhausted, his unfailing sense of duty helped him begin to refocus on the important issues of the day ahead, as he then remounted his bicycle to continue on his way. Prior to his arrival at the plantation, it was essential that he shook off the gloom that had enveloped him all morning: his employees deserved better than to be engulfed by the contagion of his despair. So despite a weary heart, it was with a generous smile that he greeted the security officer as he swept through the gates of the compound. The heir to the family business further signalled his apparent good cheer with a wave to some gardeners, who were tending the lawn in front of the main office building. Dismounting, he parked his bike in the sole dedicated slot, situated to one side of its entrance. A recent installation, this simple facility had been commissioned by the workforce and unveiled in a surprise ceremony on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. Right on cue, the old man from the railway station then emerged silently from the doorway. Forcing a smile he held out Daman’s briefcase, returning it to the man he had last observed guiding the aging two-wheeler along the platform, a rather sullen expression on his face. “I see that the wiles of the elderly have outsmarted the – shall we say – eager desire of youth,” Daman quipped. “Once again, you win the race, my friend,” he then beamed, to his loyal subordinate’s relief. For it seemed to the old man that his boss had rid himself of whatever cloud had earlier been sitting above him.

PT Bambang Edible Oil had virtually run itself over the past two decades, due in part to a dramatic increase in the global demand for polyunsaturated vegetable oils. The raised awareness of the health benefits they offered and their replacement in general food production of the more traditional, saturated fats guaranteed that the firm’s order book was permanently filled. And over the same period this movement towards healthier living took place, an almost non-existent turnover among his key production staff meant that Daman was now running a company at which the senior employees were, on average, highly qualified. This unrelated but coinciding factor had led to greater efficiencies in the running of the business, further boosting its profitability. Daman’s star, then, was already rising at the time he had been appointed to take over at the helm of the family concern. But above all else, what had made his successful stewardship of the company relatively easy to achieve was his father’s shrewd decision to resist the lure of unnecessary growth, once he had reached the stage where he was satisfied with what had been built. As a result, the business had always remained under private control – never overreaching itself through excessive debt, or suffering interference from unwanted external forces. Today’s production meeting, like so many before, was in consequence a straightforward recital of the latest chapter in PT Bambang’s continuing success story. Reports of maintained turnover, efficiency and margin were delivered earnestly and with considerable pride by his loyal heads of inventory, production and sales. “We have now successfully implemented the just-in-time delivery system,” said one. “The annual maintenance shut-down went off without a hitch.” Another. “The order book remains full, with turnover predicted to remain steady for at least the next six months.” And so on. Indeed, Daman could have scripted the minutes and found it difficult, as the meeting drew to its familiar conclusion, to prevent his mind from drifting off to the lonely place it had earlier occupied.

In closing he congratulated each of them on their dedication and achievement, adding emphasis to key points with the subtle flick of his head with which, over the years, they had all become accustomed. But as his most senior staff members then filed out of the boardroom, his mood once more darkened while he sat in further contemplation, his mind returning to that most awful of days – and a confrontation that led him seriously to challenge his father’s wisdom, for the only time in his life. An exceedingly rare moment, when he had even considered completely disobeying the rock to which all his values clung, despite the dire consequences he knew would result. The day he was forcibly dragged into this very room by the man, who was shaking with a fury that had never before revealed itself, and one that Daman prayed would never surface again.

posted by Kirk at 11:27 pm  

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (15)

It had been a slow morning at the newsstand, with just a handful of opportunities for Anath to strike up conversation. Apart from the tense encounter with the Captain a while earlier, there had been little to stir him from a state of mild apathy. On days like this, he spent much of his time poring over the various newspaper sections and magazines that he would later sell, in an effort to further educate himself. Now twenty-four years of age, Anath was still plugging the gaps that had been left unfilled by his inadequate schooling in the Kampung.

In today’s business section of The Jakarta Post, he read an article about the capital markets that had begun sprouting up in some of the country’s major cities. And whilst he understood their mechanisms, Anath was struggling to comprehend their absolute lack of philanthropic intent. To him, it was inconceivable that so much energy, organisation and, ultimately, currency could be invested in an activity that achieved nothing more than the material enrichment of but a few, most of who were scarcely in need of extending the staggering fortunes they had already amassed. To Anath, the capital markets appeared to do nothing for the country, or even humanity taken as a whole – indifferent as they were to progress or innovation, and opposing charity in any form.

Reading on, he came across another business story, this time concerning a deliberate curtailment in the distribution of a potentially life-saving drug, the supply of which was being restricted temporarily to cause increased demand and, perversely, an improvement in the financial forecast – and share price – of an already massively traded local pharmaceuticals stock. Despite his limited knowledge of such matters, it seemed to his innocent mind that far from oiling the cogs of the economy, the impact of the markets was often to choke the natural progress that might otherwise be made. Notwithstanding his irritation, however, and whilst he would never be able to concur with the manipulative ways of the city, Anath was at least gaining a far greater insight into the habits and aspirations of modern trading than he would ever have glimpsed had he remained confined within the horizons of his rural past. He was, then, comforted by the knowledge that this exposure was of certain value to his development: that he was continuing to learn, even though his own market sentiment could be classified as negative. But to where, he pondered, in final reflection of what the Post termed ‘business’, had the spiritual content of life fled? Was that particular God now resting, to return when some ancient cycle permitted? Or had this benign aspect of humanity been lost forever, killed by the twin Gods of commerce and greed?

Exasperated, Anath turned to the section devoted to national news, which today focused on the endemic corruption plaguing his country’s government. It sickened him that those who gained office through pledges of a better education for the children of the masses, a fairer distribution of the country’s rich oil and mineral wealth and accelerated national economic development were brazenly lining their own pockets with illicit gains, earned through the abuse of privilege. These supposed ‘pillars of society’ appeared to feel no sense of shame when laundering their black money through the purchase of yet more luxury homes and cars while – adding insult to injury – they sent their children abroad to study. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population was finding it harder each day to scrape enough Rupiah to just eke out a menial existence. How can our people improve themselves when they are living a day at a time, on a hand-to-mouth basis? he asked himself, testily. For Anath was incensed that corruption seemed an accepted national joke no one was prepared seriously to challenge. He hoped desperately that he would someday be given the opportunity to play a role in changing this unacceptable state of affairs. Seeking to conquer his frustration, the young man’s thoughts now turned to his mother – a gentle guide who would always find a way to soothe his discontent at moments such as this, during their days together back in the Kampung. Anaaath, her purring pitch would softly rise, and a few well-chosen words of wisdom would then leave him smiling and relaxed.

A devoted son, Anath had written to her unceasingly since his arrival in Jakarta, noting down at night the events of each day and mailing off a week’s worth of anecdotes every Monday. He had also managed to send a regular supply of money: something he knew she would rather refuse. But having trained himself to get by on very little – living as he did in cheap lodgings, and completely without vice – his meagre earnings were sufficient to support this noble deed. Anath also hoped that, as well as contributing to her daily needs, some of the money he sent his mother could be saved. For whilst at present unsure of his future direction, this resolute young man was nonetheless convinced that his lot as a simple purveyor of news was not the end of a particular road, but the beginning of what would prove a fantastic journey. This was a test of patience that had been ordained by some higher authority, he believed. One that he was required to pass, before being given the chance to move on. And when a better opportunity did eventually arise, he was determined to avoid the need to resort to the world of modern commerce he so loathed, and not be forced to borrow any seed capital required from the sharks that ruled its murky waters.

posted by Kirk at 11:31 pm  

Monday, December 17, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (14)

It was already two hours past regulation prayer time when the driver swung the army-issue Timor through the gates that sealed the short drive leading into the Captain’s residence. Essentially a Korean made vehicle with a local badge slapped on its tail, the car’s performance had been sluggish once more today, as a result of which he had been instructed – in no uncertain terms – to find a Bengkel that was equipped to fix it. The problem with this was that whilst the model was regulation issue for all civil servants – from the armed forces to the Ministry of Religious Affairs (and everything in between) – spare parts were hard to come by. He cursed the fact that, yet again, the crawl around town through rush-hour logjams meant the rest of his schedule would be disrupted. For what was left of the evening, he would be forced to play catch-up. Leaving the lumpy engine running as he stepped out of the car to open the garage door, a pang of hunger gurgled audibly in his stomach. But although the driver was hungry, his faith insisted he should always pray before eating. So, closing the door again after he had parked the car inside, he disappeared into the house to lay down his prayer mat and make his simple truce with God. Fifteen minutes later he re-emerged, clutching a small package of food. At this moment his thoughts were confined to taking his leave for the day, eating and then enjoying the deep slumber of someone whose boss has just left town.

Adi allowed him to walk about thirty paces before he opened his car door with a metallic creak. Then getting out of the dilapidated red Toyota he headed off in pursuit, the sound of his footsteps lost amidst the cacophony of the busy street. Shortly after rounding the first corner, he approached the driver from behind. “Hey, ’Pak – can you spare me a moment?” he asked, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder. He flicked his warrant card from a pocket. The startled driver only just managed to resist his first instinct – which was to run – stopping instead to turn and face the Detective. Seeing the warrant card, he instinctively thought he was about to be arrested. For although he was a relatively law-abiding man, he knew that innocence did not necessarily count for much when hailing from among the lower echelons of society, here in the city of his birth. “W-why? What’s wrong? W-w-w-what have I done?” he stuttered, nervously. “Relax. And follow me,” Adi simply replied.

They sat facing each other in a simple cafeteria. Adi tried to steady the jumpy driver with small talk and the odd wisecrack, as they were served steaming hot tea in traditional tall glasses. The Detective’s buoyant personality proved to be an asset on this occasion and he handled the situation well. Talking first about nothing in particular and then around his subject, when finally arriving at the reason for the interview the driver could almost imagine that he had acquired a new friend. Thus becalmed, he willingly revealed he had been aware for some time that his boss – of whom he was terrified – had somehow strayed from the path. Having grown uncomfortable with the way things were developing in that quarter, the Detective’s approach was therefore not altogether unwelcome. But what the driver needed in order to participate in Adi’s scheme was a one hundred percent guarantee of protection. For he had seen ample evidence of the cruelty of which the Captain was capable. “’Pak Detective,” he now began, “if I become your informant, can you promise to look after me if…if things go wrong?” The young Detective chuckled dismissively, as if this were a trivial demand. For unlike the driver, he had little real idea of what he was up against. “Don’t worry about that, my friend,” he laughed, “you’ll have the full force of the law behind you. Trust me.”

The driver excused himself and left his seat to find a lavatory. Noticing the food package that sat unopened atop the table, Adi took his chance. Unwrapping two or three layers of the greaseproof paper, he slipped two filthy twenty-dollar bills inside, before re-packaging the man’s evening meal of nasi bungkus. The spider’s web had begun to be spun. Looking less sure upon his return, the driver then indicated his desire to leave for home, a request to which Adi consented. He was experienced enough to know that it would take more time to fully convert the man, but at least the first seeds of their future arrangement had been planted in his head. “OK my friend,” he said as they parted. “Enjoy your meal. I’m sure you’ll find it…er…quite rich.”

posted by Kirk at 10:19 pm  

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (13)

The first time he really touched her it was with a tremulous, exploratory gesture that he gambled, laying a hand on the silken skin of her knee as she sat in the grass; her hemline resting higher on delicious, clammy thighs. For Daman, this could have been an awful moment of complete misunderstanding – of rejection and the end of an illusion. But no: the brown-skinned Kampung beauty had instead lain back, nervously at first, while staring at the blue nothingness of the sky. Her eyes darting about in a nervy dance, the girl’s facial expression suggested that she understood the role into which she had been cast, but was unfamiliar with the script. This sublime debutant would need to ad-lib most of her lines, then. Daman lay beside her and drew her close with a careful but strong embrace. For him also, this was a game of trial and error. Holding the girl close, he began to notice the tremors that were fluttering throughout her body. And at more or less the same time he began, similarly, to experience an involuntary stirring within his own. In an attempt to calm his agitated prize, he stroked Ramani’s shiny hair, before gently running his fingers over the fine bone structure of her cheeks. The diversion this produced enabled him to rein in his thoughts from the gallop at which they had set off, for instinctively he knew that this would be a distance race. Turning towards her, he hesitated for the briefest of moments before inserting the tip of his tongue between her slightly parted lips, licking around their perimeter. Then extending it further to meet hers, within, he was taken aback by the urgent, excited response that Ramani’s tongue flicked in return.

Tiny beads of sweat began to form on her brow as his nervous hand cautiously returned to her legs, this time daring to work its way up beneath her skirt and caress the heat that lay in between. And as he gently played with the mound through her white panties, he could feel the dampness slowly beginning to form there. Through consenting eyes she then invited him to slide his fingers over the elastic and down inside, where they encountered more sticky evidence of her growing excitement. Daman lingered – uncertain now – his breath quickening. A mild panic began to invade, mocking his lack of experience. Unsure of what to do next, he wished for an instant that he had given himself more time; that he had planned with greater deliberation the journey to this place, at which he had unexpectedly arrived. Instinctively, the girl gave him a sigh of encouragement, indicating that their intentions converged. Then in a slight but ancient gesture, she pressed against him, wordlessly urging him not to desist at this pivotal moment. Accepting his cue, Daman tugged inexpertly at her panties, his fumbling hands now shaking, while she reached down to help pull them off the ends of her bare feet. Slowly and with mounting anticipation, he then raised her skirt, drawing in the sweetness of her scent as she opened up fully, the grass beneath itching her bare and shapely limbs. Unzipping his jeans in haste, Daman had no time to remove them fully before pushing immediately inside, causing her to let out a muted cry. And as the girl contemplated this moment, a tear rolled sideways to drip from the lobe of an ear, while he exploded into her within a matter of just seconds.

Afterwards they laid for some time in post-coital embrace, the breeze gently rustling the grass around them and the leaves of the trees above, while the slick of his seed began to spread inside her, sticking to whatever it could find within this new and fertile environment. After a brief period of silence, the pair then spoke airily of the love their coupling had affirmed, and of future dreams. Theirs would be a world where harmony reigned supreme, their lifetime together a blessèd pact wherein nature itself endorsed their surmounting of a man made, societal divide. Confident that the world would embrace their union they later repeated the act, and then over again in the days that followed, until they had grown in their expertise, and become satisfied lovers. But the unnatural ways of man would soon conspire to wreck even the purest of their ambitions. For dark clouds were looming on the horizon.

posted by Kirk at 1:14 am  

Friday, December 14, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (12)

There was a subtle change in Detective Adi’s purpose the second time he visited Endang’s – one he was initially reluctant to admit to himself. Now that the girl had calmed herself and felt more comfortable in his presence, she proved a most willing informant. They even shared a few jokes, after which she allowed him to order a bottle of fake champagne. But despite her growing trust in him, fuelled in part by the bubbles, there was nothing she could tell Adi that would assist in his investigations. Evidently, the Captain was highly aware of the pitfalls involved in mixing business with pleasure and had refrained from boasting of any achievements, least of all the gun running scheme the Detective was pursuing. Captain Farid Azasti was a consummate professional, then – and a highly dangerous one, at that.

Knowing that this particular lead had dried up without delivering a result – which meant he no longer had a professional reason to remain with her – Adi finally found the courage to introduce the subject that was, in fact, the main purpose of his visit. “Lulu,” he began. “Ya, sayang?” “Tell me about your life.” As the girl spoke, he reached out a hand and laid it on her shoulder, touching her skin for the first time. But she recoiled at this, shying away. And although it seemed a rather curious reaction from someone who was penetrated daily by total strangers, it spoke volumes that both she and the handsome young Detective were embarrassed by this awkward encounter. Taking a deep breath before resuming her story, the girl then took Adi’s hand in hers and reconnected its touch, this time on her cheek. She kissed his cupped palm and threw a glance briefly into his eyes, before twisting sharply away from him once again, unable to confront the possibilities that were now flooding her mind. Presented with the sight of her naked back as her flimsy garment rode up, Adi could not help noticing the image of a spider that was tattooed on to her skin, just above her coccyx. Here was his device for reopening their discussions. “What’s this, baby?” he asked, stroking the silky down that nestled there. And this time, the girl did not flinch. “Laba-Laba gang, Kota,” she replied, now sobbing quietly. “I property before.” “You what?” Adi quizzed. “Before I property Laba-Laba gang,” the girl repeated. “Before come here.” She turned to face him, wiping away her mascara tears, then held out her right hand, revealing a miniature version of the same form of branding, this time between her middle two fingers. “How did all this happen, Lulu?” the Detective asked, softly. The girl sighed deeply once again, before recommencing her tale. “When I fourteen year old, my father sell me to gang in Kota, north Jakarta. They rape me, every one. Then keep me in room. Dirty room, where men come and fuck me, every day.” How did she survive? Adi asked himself, his brow furrowed. “Go on, baby,” he encouraged, now stroking her hair. “Then one day I escape, and my friend help me come here. There was big fight, but I stay. I happy here, now.” The girl shrugged her shoulders, her composure and some of her earlier good spirits now restored. “Come, handsome boy,” she finally smiled, sipping some more of the flat champagne from a plastic beaker. “Lay down and let we forget about it a while.”

For a few more days Detective Adi continued to pursue his uniformed quarry, still without any significant breakthrough. Then, late one afternoon, as the mosques began to call the faithful to prayer and the sun dipped behind the barracks he was monitoring from across the road, he witnessed a sudden and unexpected change in the officer’s routine. As Adi sat in bored observation from inside his old Toyota, an army-issue Timor emerged from the rear of one of the administration buildings, making rapidly for the security gate. Flashing its lights repeatedly, the driver of the vehicle announced that the occupant in the rear was on some kind of urgent mission. And when the tinted window slid silently down, it was Captain Farid’s profile that, despite the failing light, could clearly be seen inside. Gesticulating impatiently at the security detachment, the surly officer gave instruction that the gate was to be raised, PDQ. Adi instinctively gunned his engine. Once through the barrier, the Timor’s tyres squealed as it sped off with the young Detective in tow, now trying desperately to keep up the pace without overtly advertising his presence. He tailed the car right up until the moment it entered the major highway that led to only one destination – the airport – when he veered off and slowed down, satisfied that at last he had a plan. For when contemplating the two men in the vehicle in front, it had suddenly struck him. The driver. The driver! Of course. The Captain’s driver – whoever he was – was the key to the whole investigation, he now saw. FIGJAM, he smiled to himself. Fuck I’m good, just ask me.

A while later, he parked his car directly outside the Captain’s private residence, making no attempt to conceal his presence. He knew the officer would not be returning today, and from the transcripts alone was almost certain where his flight was taking him. But he also knew that the car would be back, and with it the driver – the person who spent more time than anybody with the Captain, observing every last detail of his habits and movements. Someone who overheard one side of the treacherous officer’s many telephone conversations. After weeks of fruitless surveillance Detective Adi was at last beginning to develop the essence of a plan, and in contemplation of this he allowed himself a contented smile, pleased at the momentum the case was now finally gathering. About to put the squeeze on the Captain’s driver, he decided it was time to have a little fun.

posted by Kirk at 3:03 am  

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (11)

Daman’s first impression of the Kampung was of its remarkable cleanliness. Wherever he looked, he saw evidence of the villagers’ considerable efforts to keep up their tidy environment. And almost exclusively, it was the women of the community who were the most industrious. There were some stooped over, an arm folded behind for balance, while they swept dust from doorways or sprinkled water to damp down the patches of red earth outside their homes. And to one side of a well, a gathering of older crones was sat, busy hand-washing their extended families’ clothes. This particular collection of toothless hags was creating most of the noise in the vicinity: chattering loudly, they cackled at the odd coarse joke while their soapy water danced and spilled. But most impressive of all in this rural panorama, he marvelled, were the hoards of pristine children whose brilliant white school uniforms dazzled in reflection of the bright sunlight. Heralding from among the group that made up Java’s poorest class, and bereft of almost every material wealth, these spotless urchins ceaselessly radiated their joy at just being. Fascinated, their observer watched fixedly as they passed in front of him, shrieking and laughing, the anticipation of returning from class to have something-with-rice put inside their hungry bellies fuel enough to fire their excitement. This is an oasis of purity, Daman reflected, after a while. A time and place that has remained totally unspoiled by the avarice that has become the city’s malaise. For his idealistic young mind had already begun to conclude that the upwardly mobile society he inhabited was incurably diseased.

Venturing deeper into the heart of the Kampung that day, Daman cycled absently along a random route, content to take in the sights, sounds and smells this unprepossessing village had to offer. His attention thus distracted, he did not at first notice the shapely girl who balanced a water pitcher on one of her hips, and with whom he almost collided when blindly rounding a corner. But as his eyes then fell upon her for the first time and she returned a glittering smile despite his negligence, there was nothing in this world or the next that could alter the course of their converging destinies.

Every day after work he began to meet Ramani secretly on the outskirts of the village, where they would walk and make nervous small talk, or sometimes pause to discuss the deeper issues that troubled one or other of them. And as they sat during these moments of relaxation she would often shyly confess to her ignorance of city ways, in which he would then patiently try and instruct her. Growing ever closer, the couple soon learned to share a joke that the root of both their names – aman – meant ‘safe’ in the local dialect. “You’re safe with me…” he would often quip, teasing her. And for seventeen year-old Ramani this relationship was now developing into her defining moment: the intelligent, handsome man she had patiently awaited, that she instinctively knew would come, was at last here. It was the anticipation of his arrival that had earlier led her to rebuff so many other worthy suitors, without so much as an apology. Daman was the yang to her yin – her spiritual match – and she had known it instantly. For her, the moment they met was like an exothermic starburst of romantic fusion, through which the essence of purest love was distilled. And ever since, she had been floating on its gentle waters – buoyant with this brand new sensation. Daman was equally entranced, both by her obvious physical beauty and what he now began to realise was the considerable depth of her character. At an age where he judged most things in black or white terms, this strong-willed young man was either passionately committed to a cause, or totally disinterested by it. And right from the start, he knew that his feelings for this girl were firmly in the former category. Yes, this was love all right: in its most potent, youthful form. But it was love’s less refined and coarser half-brother – lust – that was to make the first move in this particular game…

It was with a heavy heart that Daman sat in contemplation of the long journey that had led him to this moment today, hunched over on the trackside grass hugging his knees, while staring absently down at his feet. Twenty-five years without her – it seemed a lifetime – and now locked in a loveless marriage, with time no longer on his side. Why had he continued to endure this pain, to uphold the contract he made with his father, for so long? Where was the girl that had since become a mature woman? Did she keep the memory as close to her heart as did he? And as the tears dripped down on to his shoes, Daman’s thoughts now turned to the child: his only child. A son and heir, he reminded himself, inwardly. The child he was told to forget – another part of the bargain. A boy who had now grown up – what was he doing? It broke his heart into a thousand pieces when he considered all the years that had passed without his being able to look at, touch, hold, comfort his boy – now a young man who probably knew nothing of him. He felt utterly helpless, certain he would never recover from this gut-wrenching life experience. That he would never be able to enjoy what it felt like to be free from guilt, or pain. What must his son think of him? he reflected. A selfish, heartless bastard-maker who had walked out on his beautiful and caring mother at the very moment she was most in need of his support?

But it had not been like that. Not at all. And he wanted to explain, to wipe the slate and make amends. Was desperate for the opportunity to tell his side of the story. Of how he, too, had suffered all these years – in truth as much as anybody. Indeed, the sacrifices he had made had left him hollow inside. Daman once more ran his fingers through his hair, his head bowed and turning slowly from side to side, stretching the tense muscles of his neck. For an unbearable pressure was building within, such that he felt he might burst if persisting with this train of thought. That ultimately he would explode, if forced to continue living the lie that was a crack his family had papered over for so long.

posted by Kirk at 12:47 am  

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (10)

This new mission was, then, perfectly suited to Adi’s near-juvenile world of cops and robbers. And the fact that the Chief had specifically chosen him to work on the case – ahead of every other Komdak Detective – was tantamount to a full endorsement of his operating methods. No less than tacit approval of his particular style. As for those among his peers who disliked his brash and overconfident manner – well, fuck them. Because one thing was for sure: Adi was going to make the fullest use of this opportunity, whether in terms of a legitimate, career-enhancing campaign to eradicate the bastard Captain’s petty example of corruption, or – as was now beginning to seed in his imagination – perhaps via a crash course in self-enrichment, through an ages-old device called blackmail.

For a number of weeks he shadowed the army officer, discovering nothing more than the fact that his quarry was a regular visitor to a seedy South Jakarta brothel operating under the camouflage of Endang’s Spa. Pitch dark on entry – to the extent that its patrons were rendered temporarily blind – and seemingly impregnated with some sickly cocktail of cheap fragrances, this establishment’s immediate assault on the senses transported its visitors to a different world: a world where dull reality was temporarily suspended, and wild sexual adventures paid compensation instead for their otherwise mundane lives. And like hundreds of similar facilities provided by the downtown districts of this cosmopolitan city, the menu at Endang’s extended to cater for all tastes in local women, from the age of about sixteen upwards and in any quantity or combination.

Taking the opportunity of a quiet afternoon, Adi decided to pay a visit himself to the tacky place he had so often seen the Captain enter. “Aduh, it’s so very dark in here,” he remarked, as the receptionist’s image slowly emerged from the gloom. “’Allo, Maaas,” she greeted him with an affected drawl, “must be your first time come here, ya?” “That’s right. And I’m a bit embarrassed, as a matter of fact.” By now the woman had begun to notice just how ruggedly handsome he was, this newcomer who stood before her. “No need be shy, Mas,” she reassured him, suggesting much with her eyes. “We got many nice girl here. Will take good care you, handsome. You want see?” “Well actually, I was recommended to come here by a friend of mine. An army officer.” The receptionist paused in thought for a moment. Then: “Army. Oh… Oh, I see.” Her expression had darkened. “I think I know man you talk about.” “He said there was a girl–” “You want same girl? Come, follow me,” the woman interrupted, a look of concern – fear – now distorting her features. “You sure he friend yours, this army guy you talk about?” she enquired as they walked, brow furrowed, her mind unable to connect the well mannered man who now trailed close behind her with the nightmare vision of the only uniformed man who frequented Endang’s. A man who had treated at least one of the girls so badly that she was hospitalised.

Adi was careful to remain silent as the receptionist continued to lead him down labyrinthine corridors that comprised a series of double s-bends, trapping all light. He felt his way along one of the sidewalls in the blackness, finally detecting a reddish glow that spilled from beneath a door to the right, up ahead. Clutching the handle to open it suddenly and without warning, the woman dispensed with even a cursory knock. “This is the girl,” she said, pushing open the door without entering. As he was ushered inside, Adi immediately took store of the vision sitting on the edge of the bed before him. She was still in her late teens, he guessed, and with shiny dark hair and velvety, coffee-coloured skin, a girl who was every bit a classic Indonesian beauty. “I come back in one hour, ’Nak,” the receptionist reassured her. Things had become ugly of late at Endang’s, leaving many of the girls less self-confident than before. The woman then ran a final, calculating look over Adi before departing. Once the door was closed, sealing the couple within, it was the young Detective who was then forced to break the ice. “Would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?” he asked, politely. “What question?” The harsh tone of the girl’s voice was incongruous, set against her soft features. “I’d just like to ask about one of your… your customers,” he continued. “He’s an army Captain. I think you know who I mean.” “Bastard!” the girl, now agitated, spat. “Look, I’m sorry to cause you any distress, but I’d really like to know whatever it is he may have said to you, in particu–” “Why I trust you? I don’t trust own parents. Why you, then? Huh?” the girl snapped, cutting across Adi’s dulcet tones, as he sought to smooth a passage to the information he wished to find. “OK. For one, I’m a Detective.” He reached inside his black leather jacket to retrieve his badge from a pocket. But this served only to produce the opposite reaction to that which he intended. “Bastard! All bastard! Police, army, all unifo–” “No!” Now it was Adi’s turn to interrupt. “Not true!” Silence. “Look. That’s simply not true,” he soothed her. “Now, let’s start with your name…”

posted by Kirk at 8:33 pm  
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