intrigue, tribal cults and lost gold amid the erupting volcanic
islands of New Guinea
Dave Stark is salvaging a crashed jetliner while Fang Mitchell
is gunrunning in a revamped warplane. They are recruited by two
suspicious Japanese to search for their lost father’s remains .
. . or a fortune in stolen gold dust. In a race to find the gold
they trek through the jungled river gorges and primitive tribes
of the Finisterre Ranges, following an elusive trail of ancient
There is only one man who can help, Ted, a tormented old soldier
haunted by horrific nightmares of Japanese atrocities, fanatical
cults and erupting volcanoes. The minute Ted steps onto the
trail he embarks on a tortuous journey of self-discovery. Their
quest climaxes violently amid volcanic eruptions on an exotic
island controlled by a demonic chief and his fire-worshipping
cult. Planes, helicopters and boats clash in a final deadly
pursuit across the Bismarck Sea.
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Jan intervened. ‘… And if Joe is right, that’s the least
of our worries. This guy could be dangerous — prostitution, drug
smuggling and gun-running.’ She deliberately glanced at Fang.
Activity increased on the beach and verandah. Senior staff made
a fuss as a large black speedboat roared around the point and
dropped smoothly off the plane.
‘Something’s happening,’ said Dave.
The speedboat wallowed briefly in its own bow wave, then idled
gracefully up to the private pier. A swarthy man in a white
shirt stepped from behind the wheel. A huge coal black islander
stood by his side. The driver left the big islander to tie up
and hurried off toward the house, followed by a string of
‘Gotta be Kless.’ Fang glanced back at the speedboat. ‘Check
that out. Ten metres of pure grunt. Big V8 with Hamilton jet
units, I’d say. Looks like it’s doin’ eighty knots just sittin’
Jan turned to Jake. ‘Does that look like the boat that followed
you from Madang?’
‘It was too far away to tell,’ he shrugged.
They noticed that all the house and garden staff were
exceptionally beautiful women. A shapely Papuan with a halo
crown of frizzy dark hair busily slashed the lawn with a curved
sarif blade. Within ten minutes, a diminutive Sepik girl,
probably late teens, walked over and smiled broadly. ‘Welcome to
Rimbula Plantation. You’re here to see Mister Kless?’
‘Yes, Dave Stark and friends. We were invited over.’
A broad overdone staircase led up to the verandah. A simple set
of ten steps would have sufficed. Hand carved totems formed
handrails. Each upright post consisted of intricately carved
warrior figurines with grasped weapons.
The Sepik girl escorted them to the front door. Two huge
vertical totems crowded with mythic ceremonial spirits of
legends and battles flanked the entrance. Another pretty girl
the door and led them to the foyer. ‘Please come in. Mister
Kless will be with you shortly.’ Her eyes were almost oriental,
her hair Polynesian and she boasted a trim but busty
doubt a Trobriand islander.
Dave smirked as Jake underwent a transformation. His normal
slouch straightened. He was taller, chest out, stomach in as he
smiled and chatted with the attractive Trobriand girl.
Bruno Kless entered and dominated the room with a strange earthy
charisma. His mixed-race heritage blessed him with Teutonic good
looks. His smooth naturally tanned skin glowed
with good health. He quickly scanned and assessed his visitors.
A broad smile spread across his face, exposing perfectly
straight white teeth below a wide close-cropped moustache. ‘Good
afternoon everyone and welcome to Rimbula Plantation,’ he said
as they casually introduced themselves.
Dave saw Kless’s gaze fixed on Jan. ‘Thanks for your
invitation.’ He fancied Jan’s captivating beauty was the
deciding factor in taming Kless’s reputed arrogance.
‘And how may I help you, Mr. Stark?’ Kless queried brusquely.
His large intelligent eyes looked lively and almost black in
‘Joe Wallis tells us you’re an expert on the Sangami Fire Cult.
We’d like permission to briefly transit your estate so we can
‘The Sangami tribe—it’s a delicate situation,’ he replied.
‘We’ll need to discuss a few things.’ His initial warmth was
lost to a sudden reluctance.
Fang broke the hesitant silence. ‘I see you have a personal
jetboat in your fishing fleet.’
‘Yes, one of my favourite toys, but also quite practical. If the
airstrip’s closed due to bad weather, I can be in Madang in
thirty minutes. In the wet season, the road is often washed away
between here and Kaviak. With the jetboat, I’m only ten minutes
from the airstrip in an emergency. Are you familiar with
Hamilton jet boats, Mr. Mitchell?’
‘I had a single jet fifteen footer a few years back. The
quickest and most manoeuvrable boat I’ve ever owned.’
‘They certainly are. Living in the shadow of a volcano
encourages one to invest in such speedy transport. Right, let’s
have coffee in the lounge. My own homegrown brew of course.’
Kless smiled proudly, then led his visitors to the main living
Ornate artefacts worthy of a museum decorated narrow solid wall
sections upholstered with decorative pit-pit grass. Cleverly
thatched in two distinct tones, it created fascinating
herringbone patterns. Huge elaborately carved storyboards from
the Murik Lakes hung above sinister black masks from the
Chambris area of the Sepik Plains. Morobean and Madang carved
idols and figurines with eyes of Cowry shells stood against the
Fang paused at a huge bookshelf, impressed by the comprehensive
collection of Pacific history books and war records.
‘Mind if I browse through your library?’
‘Feel free. Meanwhile the rest of us can get comfortable.’
Combat arrows and spears hung in large fans alongside displays
of ceremonial weapons. All sported intricately carved barbs of
fire-hardened black palm.
A screen partly concealed one corner of the room, the entrance
guarded by a huge carved crocodile. It’s back was shaped into a
bench for four, the jaws hung agape, studded with real crocodile
teeth. The sound of women’s voices came from beyond the screen.
‘Don’t mind them,’ smiled Kless. ‘Some of my staff relaxing.’
A big muscular man sat quietly at the bamboo bar. His skin
looked coal black, almost certainly a Buka islander. The giant
looked tough and ignored the others in the room. He silently
joined the women behind the screen. A small machine pistol swung
from webbing at his hip. Jake elected to take up the vacated
stool at the bar. A single-edged razor blade lay on the bar
a mirror lightly dusted with white powder.
‘Recognise the gun, Fang?’ Dave queried.
‘Yep, Uzi 9mm sub-machine gun. Foldin’ wire stock, 18 inches
long and weighs less than nine pounds. A 25 round magazine,
capable of firing 650 rounds a minute with limited accuracy up
to 200 metres.’
Kless listened, clearly impressed. ‘You know your weapons, Mr.
‘Are automatic weapons necessary out here?’ Dave challenged.
‘With the current state of emergency and martial law, I thought
it prudent to ensure my property is protected.’
They sat down and Jan reopened the conversation. ‘Is that your
Cessna Skymaster parked at the airstrip?’
Kless did not answer directly. Instead he motioned to a shapely
light-skinned Tolai woman, who was watering macrame suspended
coleus. She moved off to prepare coffee. ‘Why, yes.
Another of my toys. Excellent for fish spotting for my small
fishing fleet.’ Kless lived in overt luxury and flaunted his
wealth and power at every opportunity.
‘Were you flying it in the Finisterre Ranges two weeks ago?’ Jan
‘Two weeks ago? No, although I charter it out often. I can’t
remember who had it at that time. My manager looks after all
that,’ he added evasively.
The siting of the house captured the sea breeze both under and
through the building. A gentle trade wind wafted across the open
glass louvres. It carried the fragrance of frangipani into the
opulence of the room. The Tolai girl returned, and the strong
aroma of freshly brewed Arabica coffee overpowered nature’s
Kless waited as the woman poured coffee. ‘My own blend from my
highland plantation,’ he repeated smugly.
‘Did you by chance charter your plane to a Japanese man?’ Jan
Kless hesitated before his charm returned. ‘As I said, I don’t
deal directly with the customers. On occasions I charter it to
Japanese groups.’ He called for a selection of spirits and
port glasses before settling back into his favourite lounge
chair. It resembled a throne, supported by uprights in the form
of carved human figures. The armrests exposed a wonder of
intricate carving. Crocodiles consumed the tails of twisted
pythons, like macabre daisy chains. ‘I hear you’re diving on the
old Jap barge at Kulili,’ he probed changing the subject.
‘Obviously it’s beyond salvage. What are you after?’