‘Look at that, they have pretty tea cups on sale as well’, the man pointed to the next table.
‘Oh yes, they are very pretty’, Laura agreed. ‘I love oriental China.’
‘Me too, so delicate.’
They started walking slowly from table to table in companiable silence, once in a while either of them making a comment on the goods on sale. Although they had never met before, it felt as if they knew each other from before. Laura glanced at the man. No, she was sure that she hadn’t met him before. He was handsome and polite; she would have remembered if they had met before.
‘By the way my name is Ted’, the man said after they had walked passed five tables.
They smiled at each other.
‘I am here on a retreat at this centre’, Laura explained. ‘We do a lot of yoga and meditation here.’
‘I know, I heard of this place’, Ted said. ‘I am a volunteer teacher at a nearby Buddhist monastery.’
‘Oh how nice’, Laura smiled some more. There was something very pleasant about Ted.
‘How are you finding Taiwan?’ Laura asked.
They started chatting about cultural differences and how they had ended up coming to this country. They found out that they both lived in London.
‘We live literally ten minutes away from one another!’ Ted laughed. ‘And we have to come half way across the world to meet.’
‘Funny how life works out sometimes’, Laura agreed.
They stopped at a stall selling some oolong tea.
‘Being in this country has certainly taught me a lot and opened my eyes’, Ted said as he sipped his tea.
‘Same here’, Laura nodded. ‘It has also highlighted to me what is important in life and what to focus.’
‘Yes, it is always good to leave home to learn how to appreciate what you have and how to make the most of it’, Ted agreed.
They walked along to the next table. There were beautiful golden Buddha statues placed on the table, but there was no one around selling them.
‘I love Buddha statues’, Ted said as he stroked one of them. ‘In fact, I love them so much that I bought one from the market the other day.’ Ted leaned in closer to inspect the Buddha statue. ‘It is very similar to this…’ He looked deep in thought as he gazed around the hall.
‘I am pretty sure that I bought the same Buddha statue as they are selling and also I can see you have some here at the retreat centre.’ Ted gestured around to some statues by the main staircase.
All of a sudden Laura felt a cold chill in the air. But it was hot outside, so it could only be an inner warning sign.
‘You know, some of these statues went missing from the centre recently…’
‘A dark Western guy was selling them at the market’, Ted said in a whisper after a while. He looked at the unmanned stall and gazed around them to see if anyone could hear them talking.
‘It’s a bit odd that no one is on this stall, isn’t it?’ Laura whispered to Ted. ‘There is a dark Western man here on this retreat. And I have to say is that he is a bit mysterious. He doesn’t show up to most of the sessions and we hardly see him. No one seems to know what he is up to most of the time.’
They were quiet for a while as they were thinking about what all this could possibly mean.
‘Maybe we should find out more about this man’, Ted said eventually. ‘If he did steal the statues, and I mean if, then he might be up to something else that is no good as well.’
Laura nodded slowly. The dreadful feeling in her stomach intensified.
‘I will try to get to know him more, talk to him more’, she said slowly. ‘I did become a bit closer to him.’ He explained to Ted about how they had got lost during the day trip.
‘I will try to catch him and suggest a tea together as soon as I see him’, she added.
‘Okay, great’, Ted said.’ Come and see me at the monastery as soon as you have a chance to do that. We can then try to work out what’s going on and what we can do.’
ked at each other in disbelief.