The starts were shining brightly in the blue night sky as Laura stepped onto the soft green grass in the courtyard of the retreat centre. There were colourful thin blankets organised in a circle and the leader of the retreat, Ms Shanti, was sitting in the middle of the circle with her hands resting on her knees, eyes closed. Annie was already lying down on one of the blankets, eyes closed and looking very relaxed. Laura could hear her deep breathing in the stillness of the night.

There were just a couple of them today before the rest of the group would arrive. They were about to do an evening meditation that would help them all to have a restful night of sleep. Laura lay down on one of the blankets. Se sighed softly. When she was here, it felt like all her worries flew away and she could just be still, without thinking or doing anything. ‘How long will this last?’ She thought to herself. ‘How long will I feel this peaceful and will I be able to carry this feeling with me to whatever I decide to do next?’

Laura opened her eyes briefly and took a glance around the open space. There was no sign of Darky. ‘Where is he? What is he doing?’ She thought as her eye lids started feeling heavier. ‘Better not to think about it’, she told herself as she started having an uneasy feeling in her heart and her stomach once again. ‘There was something strange about that man….’ Laura let the nature and the mild breeze in the air take her mind away.

After half an hour of simply being, Ms Shanti asked them to open their eyes. ‘Now we are going to do a little chakra mediation. After that you are free to retire into your rooms’, she said brightly. ‘If anyone needs a drink before we do the meditation, feel free to pop inside into the main hall. We have cool water and some jasmine tea inside.’

Laura sat up slowly. ‘I will go and get some.

‘Do you want any?’ She asked Annie. Annie was still lying down.

‘Thanks, but I seem to be fine for now. I just feel like gazing up at the stars for a while longer.’ Annie had a dreamy look in her eyes and Laura left her behind while she wondered inside.

Laura poured herself a cup of tea and leaned against a marble table in the hallway. This whole building had a calm to it that was hard to explain. She had never before felt this peaceful anywhere in her life.

Then some sharp voices from around the corner shook her out of her reverie. First they were whispering in Chinese, but they sounded angry and worried to Laura. Then she heard someone speak in English with a heavy Chinese accent. ‘But they are not here. We have searched the whole building and can’t find them anywhere. Someone must have taken them!’ ‘They are worth thousand of dollars’, another voice said angrily. ‘How can they go missing from a locked storage? It must be someone with a key who took them.’

‘No one who works here would take them. Everyone knows that the golden Statues of the Buddha, or any statue of the Buddha for that matter, is a Holy object and not to be stolen. That accumulates very bad karma.’

There was silence after that. Laura felt very uneasy and had a sick feeling in her stomach. Someone had taken the golden Buddha statues from the retreat place. Why did she have a sinking feeling that Darky Matthews may have something to do with this?


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