Today's feature is the first book in The Java Gold series:
by Robert A. Kingsley
About Robert A. Kingsley:
Robert Kingsley is a Dutch Canadian author who currently lives in Europe. Since his early youth he has had a keen interest in aviation and its influence on modern history – especially World War II.
During his travels all over the globe as a lifelong ICT professional, he has gathered first-hand, local knowledge of many countries and places. He has drawn on this knowledge to write “A Rude Awakening.” He has also published a full-length multipart novel titled The Java Gold, of which The Odyssey and Winds of Fortune are the first volumes. Robert is married and has a son and a daughter.
When not busy with his consulting business, he spends a lot of time travelling and doing research for future books.
Connect with Robert A. Kingsley:
About The Odyssey:
The story begins during the Second World War, as the Japanese invasion sets South East Asia in flames. At the last possible moment, when the Japanese are already launching the final assault on Java, a planeload of pure gold is hurriedly sent off to safety in Australia. A malignant twist of fate intervenes and the gold is lost.
For years, the hidden treasure casts its spell on the surviving crew members. Misfortune, violence and death follow in their wake when they try to retrieve the gold after the end of the war.
Their bloody treasure hunt plays out in the Dutch East Indies, a restive place despite the war’s end. As the story continues, their expedition takes them across continents, spanning India, Australia, Europe and North Africa. Their exciting exploits and sizzling romances are juxtaposed with historical developments of places scarred by war and colonialism, the racism of corrupt societies and the emerging threat of terrorism. The tale is replete with danger and treachery as the pursuit of “The Java Gold” shows the treasure hunters that human life is the price of greed.
This volume marks the beginning of a series of books following the treasure-hunting rogues. Kingsley blends kinetic action with meticulously researched factual details, infusing the work with his own passion for aviation and the Second World War, giving readers an exhilarating literary experience that’s part historical fact, part pulp fiction and all adventure.
Purchase Links for The Odyssey:
This part fits in after the flight has gone wrong and the gold has been hidden, The survivors have fled to Ceylon and discovered they are wanted by the authorities for the theft of an airplane and a load of gold. They make it through the war under new (false) identities and survive three years of flying over the Himalaya's as part of the "Hump" operation. When the war is over, they want to settle somewhere. Their only trade is flying and they lack money to buy an airplane. So they decide to retrieve the hidden gold. They find passage as "working passengers" on board of an Irish registered tramp coaster, about to set out for Sumatra. They have told the captain they're looking for abandoned arms dumps on that island.)
Colombo (Ceylon), October 16, 1947
The barge chugged noisily around the stern of the anchored coaster. It carried off a crowd of jabbering people that had been crawling over the ship all morning. They had lugged sacks, cartons and crates up and down the ladders into the hold and other places under the direction of the mate and the cook.
Leaning over bridge rail Peter had looked at them. Their ceaseless motion was like a stream of ants, swarming up and down ladders and steps, seemingly without a discernible pattern. Never ceasing, never resting.
It frightened him a little.
Somehow it symbolized the East, he thought. Uncountable masses that swarmed and multiplied, until they had occupied every last bit of space and finally would burst into other continents. He shivered and went back into the little radio shack behind the bridge where the captain was bent over some navigation charts. They were large-scale charts depicting the eastern part of the Indian Ocean and the north Sumatra coast.
‘I guess they’re ready, at least they shoved off’ he said.
‘They bloody well be, it took them all morning’ said the captain without looking up.
‘You seem to have taken a lot of stuff on board.’
‘Neither a ship nor a pub should run out of grub’, is what they say where I come from,' grumbled the captain.
Peter nodded. The real reason was suddenly obvious. When you’ve got a questionable cargo on board, the last thing you want to do is put into port and risk a customs inspection.
The captain put his charts away and stretched his back. As he lighted a large briar pipe he looked at Peter and asked bluntly
‘Mind if I stick my nose into your business?’
‘Why the hell should we go and lug a load of guns all the way to Europe, when those Indonesian Nationalists are clamoring for them just around the corner? Wouldn’t those poor bastards want them, as they’re fighting for their independence?’
‘Yeah, you said the right words; they’re POOR bastards indeed, they have no money.’
For a while the captain thoughtfully pulled at his pipe.
‘Couple of months ago the Dutch army carried out what they called a ‘police action’, occupying large areas in Java and Sumatra. But I hear the Indonesians are still fighting back quite well. Now where did they get weapons, if they have no money?’
‘They make money from some oil wells they have in their territory. And the Japanese have quietly given the nationalists a lot of weapons when the war ended; they’re better armed than you think.’
‘You seem to know a lot about them…’
Peter fell silent.
It was so difficult to keep your cover. Even though they lived under assumed South African names, which fitted their accents and their talking in Dutch every now and then. But even after four years it was still difficult to stay away from subjects that could give a clue to their former lives.
‘You have to, if you want to stay alive in this business,’ he finally answered.
The captain gave him a long look and walked into the wheelhouse.
They sailed on the afternoon tide.
Later that night they huddled together in the captain´s small cabin. The atmosphere was humid and oppressive, despite a steady draught of fresh air sent in by air scoops in the open portholes. The ship sailed at a steady 10 knots through the tropical night and the swishing sound of the parting waves filled the cabin when the captain paused while telling his tale.
‘Couple of days ago a chap came to see me and offered me a lot of money to take a cargo to a spot on the northern coast of Sumatra, near Sabang. When I said ‘perhaps’ he asked me if I was willing to deliver the cargo just outside the three-mile limit, where it would be collected by people with junks. I said ‘maybe’ and we talked price and when we agreed he asked me if I could be discreet, because the Dutch would not want this cargo to reach its destination…’
‘It sounds like stuff for the Indonesian nationalists’ said Peter. ‘There’s a lot of fighting going on between them and the Dutch, especially in Java.’
‘Suppose your ship is spotted by the Dutch?’ Frank asked.
The captain shrugged.
‘There’s little risk. Most of the Dutch navy has been wiped out during the war and the Brits have enough on their hands elsewhere so they are turning a blind eye. It seems to be fairly safe, especially that far up north the Sumatra coast. Java is a totally different kettle of fish!’
‘When and where do we pick up this cargo?’ asked Frank ‘it’s not on board yet.’
‘We’ll be meeting a couple of barges somewhere off Galle. The transfer will be done at sea.’
‘And where do we come in?’ asked Peter.
‘Something was not right.’ the captain said after a moments ‘hesitation. ‘This chap paid a deposit and assured me he would pay the rest on delivery of the shipment. He’ll board off Galle, he said. Later, some of his associates will come aboard and they will pilot us to the delivery point. I did not like the sound of that.’
‘Call it my Irish superstition. That chap did not FEEL right, if you take my meaning. He was polite, spoke good English but with an accent I could not place. His money was good but there was something… queer about him. Something felt wrong. I would not like to meet that guy in a dark alley.’
‘What did he look like?’
‘European I would say. He looked middle aged but still a tough customer. Well dressed. Narrow lined face with deep-set eyes. Shifty, would not look you in the eye. Thin black hair combed straight back without a parting. At one time I had a feeling he was a cop trying to goad me in to a trap. He certainly FELT like one.’
‘Did he have a name?’
The captain laughed. ‘Sure. He said ‘call me Mr. Smith.’
‘So why did you want us on board?’
‘I have a sneaking suspicion you guys have done more than riding tramp freighters in the Indian Ocean. I bet the two of you can handle guns. And I don’t like the idea of having my ship grabbed from under me by a bunch of pirates…’
‘So you offered us passage while at the same time you’re enlisting us as a kind of guard detail?’ Peter asked.
‘That’s about the size of it. It may be nothing and all above board. But I do like to have a couple of extra eyes and hands that can handle a gun if necessary.’
Peter had noticed a few new faces on board. They were all burly, muscular sailors. ‘You seem to have hired some extra hands with that in mind.’
‘Yeah, I need them to man the derricks anyway. Once we’ve made the delivery they’ll be paid off in the first port of call.’
The steady pulse of the diesel engine changed to a slower, more uneven rhythm and the ship slowed down perceptibly.
After four days of sailing without incident they had made their landfall on the coast of Sumatra to the north of Weh Island, just off the shipping lanes leading into the narrow Straits of Malacca.
The golden rays of the rising sun revealed a deserted looking bay. There were some junks to the east in the channel between Weh and Klah islands. Closer inshore they saw what looked like a group of covered sampans huddled together.
‘Can you imagine this place once rivaled Singapore?’ said the Captain ‘sailing ships stopped here for watering and provisioning. And then the steamers came and it just sort of dwindled away. The steamers still made their landfalls here all right, but they just continued down the straits to Singapore and the South-China Sea.’
The mate looked thoughtfully at a small group of junks, just visible to the south, and said ‘I wonder where our friends are,’ while he scanned the junks for some kind of recognition signal.
It proved to be unnecessary.
A small sampan rapidly approached them and expertly circled the freighter. Taking in most of its lateen sail it came up from behind and slowly drew alongside. An Indonesian looking man stood up in the narrow hull and greeted them in broken English.
‘You come for Mistah Smith?’
And with these words the sampan drew away before the wind, in the direction of the islands and the junks.
‘I don’t like this,’ said the mate. ‘I thought we would transfer the stuff at sea, just outside the three mile boundary.’ ‘
‘That was the idea’, the Captain said thoughtfully. ‘But apparently they don’t like the swell.’ And indeed, a long swell was running, a swell that could easily swamp a heavily laden sampan. It looked like they wanted to transfer somewhere closer inshore, where the little boats stood a better chance. The captain passed his hand over his chin and said. ‘The Indian Ocean Pilot says it is better to anchor off Lhok Kreuengraya under Klah Island this time of the year. Obviously these people agree.’
‘Why not at Sabang?’
‘Have a look at the map. Sabang is at the Northeast tip of Weh island, on the edge of a nice bay. And that bay is deep, 20 to 30 fathoms! Good bottom, sand and coral, so anchoring is not a problem. But with the North-East Monsoon there’s no shelter. The swell and the wind might cause problems when we start transferring the cargo. And of course they also may think it is too public a place…’
‘Anyway, I won’t unload the cargo in full view of the shore’, the captain said while he kept a sharp eye on the sampan that was rapidly pulling ahead.
‘Follow him in, Lenny, but watch her head near the islands. There’s a 2 knot current close inshore.’ The engine room telegraph rang and the ship gathered speed and the Mary F sailed majestically across the crescent shaped bay. The humpback of the extinct volcano on Weh drew nearer and the sea became noticeably calmer here. Their pilot in the small sampan was making straight for a number of large sampans and junks moored closely inshore.
‘Interesting scenery, isn’t it Captain?’ said a Chinese voice.
Feng Lin and two of his thugs had come onto the bridge unannounced and now stood behind them.
‘Mr. Feng Lin, may I have a word with you in private?’
Feng Lin feigned surprise. ‘Why is that, Captain?’
‘In private, Mr. Feng Lin.’
Feng Lin nodded and said ‘As you wish, captain. Where shall we go?’
‘The radio shack will do fine.’
One of the Chinese thugs started to follow them but halted after a curt remark from Feng Lin. The thug took up his old position, behind the helmsman and the engine-room telegraph.
The captain closed the door of the radio shack. He silently looked at the Chinese for a while and then he said ‘Mr Feng Lin, why are we guided into this bay?’
Feng Lin smiled. ‘There’s a good place to anchor in the lee of the island. And there we’ll transfer the cargo into the junks.’
The captain shook his head in disagreement.
‘Mr. Feng Lin, I am not going to unload the cargo in full view of the shore. I’ll reverse course and sail out of this bay.
‘Why is that, Captain?’
‘As you remember we did agree that the cargo would be transferred outside territorial waters. Now you ask me not only to do so in territorial waters but also close inshore. I have to consider the safety of my ship and crew Mr. Feng Lin. So I will sail out of the bay and will wait for your junks outside the three-mile limit.’
‘Captain, this is all very strange. We have a business agreement and, in our view, this location is best suited for the transfer.’
‘I don´t like conditions to be changed without being consulted Mr. Feng Lin. Just tell your Mr. Smith to come and collect his cargo outside the three mile limit.’
Feng Lin looked back rather coldly.
‘If you insist captain` Feng-Lin said after a few moments. He nodded politely and walked out of the radio shack. Before he disappeared down the ladder he uttered a short, biting sentence in Chinese to the thugs on the bridge. They still stood motionless but suddenly seemed to be very alert, their black slanted eyes darting around while their hands rested on their large Klewangs.
The sampan came alongside the coaster. Feng Lin rapidly climbed down the rope ladder and jumped on the sampan with surprising agility. He shouted something and the sampan swiftly sailed away in the direction of the moored fleet.