Chapter 1 & 2
The sound of tinkling glasses and the low murmur of conversation reached his ears as he leaned over the balcony of the resort and looked out over Miri. Rickie Ahmad, former BKN agent, sighed as he lifted the champagne flute to his lips.
It had been approximately six months since he was released from his duties at the National Security Division following the sudden collapse of his father. As a direct descendant of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin, he had returned home to the East Malaysian state of Sarawak to maintain the family oil fields and other businesses while his father recovered. Not as exciting, perhaps, as his former position; nevertheless, there was a certain cutthroat feeling to the business dealings, particularly with China. The day to day operations were interesting enough, he mused, to keep him on his toes a while longer.
What bored him to tears, however, were the social appearances he was required to attend as a member of the upper echelon of Malaysian society. Today, it was a birthday party for a local socialite, held at a 5-star resort near the Mulu Caves. By the time the bell had rung for dinner, he had already been approached as a potential partner by much of the single female contingent, and propositioned by some of the married set as well. Whether for dancing, business, or functions of a more private nature, women tended to flock to him wherever he went.
He took off his tuxedo jacket, carelessly draped it over a chair, and inhaled deeply to catch the scent of the rainforest. He slowly released his breath and waited for the sounds of the surrounding rainforest to relax him further.
As he finished the champagne and placed the glass on a nearby table, his ears picked up a series of flute-like notes drifting through the air. Following the faint sounds, he looked out over the pool area towards a maintenance building discretely hidden behind some sago palms. He made the decision to follow the haunting notes, and turned to walk downstairs.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement, and glanced back in time to see a small feminine figure in a waitress outfit skirt the edge of the pool towards the building. Almost as soon as she disappeared behind the palms, the music abruptly stopped.
Wondering about this new development, Rickie headed towards the staircase.
Since their parents disappeared during a business trip over a year ago, Meaghan Torno had been working odd jobs to take care of her little sister. Her job as an administrative assistant didn’t pay all that much, especially when combined with the costs of raising her sister. Already, she felt older than her twenty-five years. Her ethereal sister, who preferred to wander the forest rather than attend school, was her sole family now, and she was desperate to protect her.
She found her, sitting on a large stone dragon like some fairy creature, playing her seruling. She stopped a moment to listen to the trilling notes, then made a hissing sound.
At the sound, the blonde-haired teen stopped playing, and turning, saw her sister.
“Kakak (older sister)!” she cried, as she launched herself smiling into her older sister’s arms, “I almost called down a hornbill!”
“You were supposed to stay in the laundry room,” Meaghan admonished, her resolve weakening in the face of her sister’s happiness. “We need to go back before you are seen.” Tina’s face clouded for a minute, then cleared. “Ok.” The ten-year gap between never felt wider as Meaghan looked at those innocent blue eyes.
She grasped the teen’s hand and stepped around the building. Right into the solid chest of a man, who had apparently come around the side of the building and had stood, waiting for their appearance. She winced, afraid to look up, releasing her sister’s hand. Tina quickly stepped back.