This is the final installment of the three part mystery story. If you haven’t read the first two installments, you can find them here:
Also, make sure to download the story resource. You can find a link to it at the end of the story.
In the morning, the sun rose and the rain finally stopped. After twelve hours of strong wind and heavy rain, it seemed oddly quiet. Every sound seemed louder than normal and the light much brighter. By eight in the morning, it was beginning to feel hot at the Lucky Pilgrim Resort.
In the morning, Daichi told Kanako about the robbery. He told her how Mr. Theilman had cried and yelled at all of the staff members. He told her how he threatened to have everyone fired and even tried to hit one of the men in the face. There was something about him and his actions that always made Daichi picture a child throwing a temper tantrum.
Daichi understood why he was upset though. From what he heard, over 200,000 USD worth of pearls and other jewelry had been stolen from his room. Daichi learned that Mr. Theilman was a dealer in rare jewelry and had travelled to Hue for the purpose of purchasing pearl necklaces and other jewelry from the area. Kanako was not sympathetic to the man. She didn’t seem scared either. Instead she was energetic, interested and determined to solve the mystery and to find Madame Khanh.
The couple went downstairs for breakfast and were surprised by the swarm of police officers all over the resort. The couple were disappointed to find out that they were here mostly at the request of Mr. Theilman and not looking for Madame Khanh. “Is anyone looking for her?” Daichi asked Minh Quang, who was very relaxed considering all of the troubles of the past evening.
Minh Quang was eating a banana and staring at the many police officers searching the resort. He seemed more like a man at a carnival than someone at work. “Yes, I think so,” he answered.
“Have they found her yet?”
“I don’t think so…” Minh Quang began looking for a wastebasket to throw away his banana peel.
Kanako and Daichi ate a quick breakfast and began walking around the resort looking for clues as to where Madame Khanh could be. Surely if she was somewhere inside of the resort the police would have found her, so the couple decided to look for her outside.
The storm had badly damaged the grounds of the resort. Broken tree branches were all over and some of the trees had actually been uprooted and had fallen down. The couple walked past the pool area and saw that the pool was covered in leaves and trash that had blown into it. Daichi hated to think of Madame Khanh spending the night outside in such a violent storm and began to fear that Madame Khanh might be dead. Even if that was true, where was her body?
There were police officers outside of the building as well. They were searching under chairs, inside pots and in the bushes. They were all looking for Mr. Theilman’s jewelry, but not Madame Khanh. Daichi and his wife borrowed a map of the resort from the front desk and started to systematically search for her. They looked around the tennis courts, the outdoor bar, the small playground and eventually went to “The Lovers’ Grotto”.
This last area was a walking path through some trees and odd looking sculptures. The walking path was hard to follow because of all of the loose branches on the ground. It was difficult to keep from getting lost. As they walked along the path, Kanako saw a woman’s shoe. When she knelt down to look at it, she saw another shoe twenty meters away, just outside of a small cave.
The cave was not real. It was a miniature man-made sculpture of the types of caves in Ha Long bay. A sign was next to it that said it was Sửng Sốt (surprise) Cave. Inside, the couple discovered Madame Khanh asleep. Though her clothes were a bit dirty, her hair and face were relatively clean.
Daichi shook her and woke her up. She smiled, “Oh, it is you young man, and this must be your lovely wife. It’s so nice to meet you.”
The couple helped Madame Khanh up and led her back to the resort. It was only after seeing her that the police gave her their attention. Soon there was a small crowd around the old woman; everyone was trying to help her. Once they reached the lobby, a police officer told the crowd to leave her alone. He tried to tell Daichi and Kanako to return to their room, but Madame Khanh insisted that they come with her. After all, they were the ones who found her.
The police officer reluctantly accepted the Japanese couple’s presence as they went to her room. They sat Madame Khanh in a comfortable chair and made her a cup of jasmine tea. The police had a lot of questions for her, but Madame Khanh insisted that she needed to rest first. Finally, the officer left. Daichi didn’t understand what the man said, but was sure that he would be back.
“Is there anything else we can do for you? Do you need to see a doctor?” Daichi asked with genuine concern for his aged friend.
“No, no. I just need some rest. It was a very long and cold night.”
“Yes, I understand. Do you mind if I ask…” Daichi started.
Kanako slapped Daichi’s arm. “You’re worse than that policeman! Leave her alone,” Kanako said.
“It’s okay my dear. I want to tell you what happened. I had just left your husband in the bar and come back to my room. I was getting ready for bed when I heard scratching at the door. I unlocked the door and opened it to see who it was…” Madame Khanh looked nervous.
“Really Madame, you don’t need to tell us anything. I am sorry for being so inconsiderate,” Daichi said.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay. When I opened the door, I saw a monster! I don’t know how to describe it. It looked like it was on fire. It was a tiger…no, more a man that looked like a tiger. He had glowing eyes and… it was horrible. His claws were so…horrible,” Madame Khanh was very upset.
She took a short break to drink some tea before continuing. “I went to the window and went down the fire escape. The rain was so heavy I didn’t know where I was going. I couldn’t see anything. Then, I found the small cave. I stayed there all night. It was very wet and cold,” she finished her story and began to stare at the ground while holding her cup tightly.
Daichi and Kanako felt they should leave her. Kanako offered to help her to the bathroom, but she insisted that she could take care of herself. Daichi kissed her hand before leaving, which made her giggle. Somehow her hand, without any rings or bracelets, felt younger than before. Without her necklaces and other jewelry, she looked younger.
Having found Madame Khanh, the couple didn’t have any immediate concerns. They didn’t really care about Mr. Theilman and his pearls. As for the tiger monster…they didn’t believe this story at all. Neither Daichi or Kanako were religious or prone to believe in superstition. Nobody had died or even been seriously injured. It was clear to them that it must be a thief of some sort and the couple didn’t have anything worth stealing. Besides, with over two hundred thousand dollars worth of jewelry, it was unlikely the thief would stay another night.
The tiger costume was interesting though. It was surprising how scared the staff and even the local police were. Kanako reminded Daichi of the colosseum nearby and how Diep had talked about the spirit of the animals who had fought there. “It’s a local legend. The people near here probably grew up with stories about the ghosts of tigers and elephants. There’s even a graveyard for the famous elephants and tigers, remember?” Kanako reminded Daichi.
The couple decided to make the most of the beautiful clear day and went for a swim in the pool. Daichi even began reading the novel he’d brought along with him. It was a mystery story and no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t focus on it. Every time there was a suspicious character in the novel, he compared them to one of the staff or one of the other guests at the resort. Eventually there was a thief introduced in the story, but it wasn’t as interesting as the real situation around him.
The police weren’t helping Daichi to relax. Everywhere he looked, there were men in uniform. Even in the pool area, which Daichi was sure they’d already searched, there were a few officers smoking and occasionally looking under a pool chair. They kept staring at Daichi and his wife. It made him feel uncomfortable.
Kanako didn’t mind as much as Daichi. “Well, if they are bothering you so much, why don’t we go on a little tour? We could check out that haunted colosseum,” she said.
Daichi was surprised by how much he wanted to go to the colosseum. Somehow, he felt like there must be a clue there. That, or perhaps his mystery novel was influencing his imagination. The two rented bicycles and headed towards the old colosseum. Before they left, they were warned by the police not to go too far. When they asked what they meant, the police officer said that they weren’t to leave the country until after the matter of the jewels had been resolved.
Daichi and Kanako were shocked to be on a list of suspects. Also, they were fairly sure that the police officers had no legal right to hold them in the country against their will. However, instead of arguing, the couple politely agreed and left the resort on their two old bicycles. “How far did they think we would be able to go on these anyway?” Daichi said referring to the very loud single gear bicycles.
His wife laughed loudly at this. Despite all of the drama, she was having a good time. Daichi’s surprise birthday trip was working. His wife was happy, relaxed and excited by everything happening around her.
When they arrived at the colosseum there were two things that surprised them: how small it was and how old it looked. Diep, the guest relations officer, had told them that the colosseum had been built in the mid-19th century and that the last ever elephant and tiger fight had been in 1904. However, the building looked as ancient as the colosseum in Rome. There was a security guard at the structure who also functioned as a guide. “The weather in Vietnam is not good for buildings. It makes it look very old. Please do not climb any of the stairs, it is very dangerous,” the man explained.
All of the bricks looked like they would crumble in your hands if you removed them. “Yes, it is very small. It was only big enough to hold the king and his friends for a small party. Only three hundred people could stand up here,” The guide said pointing to the area of the arena for spectators.
Kanako and Daichi were left to wander around the structure as they pleased. It was pretty inside with bright green grass and dragonflies everywhere. It was only when Daichi saw the claw marks on the walls that he remembered the horrible fighting that must have happened in the colosseum. “This must be where the elephants came in,” Kanako said pointing to a large opening into the arena.
Daichi then noticed the three small openings at different areas of the arena. He would have to crawl to climb through them himself. These must have been where the tigers entered. Daichi was walking near one of them when he saw a ring in the green grass. It was a gold ring and it looked very familiar.
Daichi knelt down and looked into the small tiger tunnel. It was still very muddy from the rain, so he only put his head inside. He used the flashlight on his phone and saw that one of the bricks was loose. It looked like someone had recently moved it.
After a few moments, Daichi’s curiosity got the better of him. He removed the brick and looked behind it. There was a heavy plastic bag that Daichi removed and brought out into the light. He emptied it out onto the grass. There were several pearl necklaces and a number of other pieces of antique jewelry. This was the jewelry that the thief had taken from Mr. Theilman!
Before reading on, try to guess who you think the thief is. Do you have an idea? Ok, then read on for the conclusion.
Daichi immediately knew who the thief was. He showed his wife the treasure and they quickly biked back to the resort. Daichi waved to the police as they came back. He was a little nervous that they might search him and find the jewels, but they just waved back. Daichi and Kanako went up to Madame Khanh’s room. Daichi entered without knocking on the door.
Instead of the old woman, Daichi and his wife saw a women younger than themselves. She was packing her bags. She was surprised to see the couple, but eventually smiled. “How much do you know?” Madame Khanh asked.
“I know that you stole the jewels and that you aren’t really Madame Khanh. I know that the reason you attacked the security guard and stole Mr. Theilman’s ring is because you wanted him to take the jewelry out of the lock boxes,” Daichi said.
“Very good, very good Daichi. When did you first become suspicious?” she asked.
“It was when you told us your story. If you really were as old and feeble as you appeared, it would have been impossible for you to reach the fire escape. It made me start thinking about other things. For example, why did you have so much makeup? I know enough about women to know that you had enough makeup and other equipment for a theatre,” Daichi said pacing back and forth in the room.
Daichi continued, “At first, I didn’t know why you left the window open, but I understand now. I must have surprised you while you were changing into your tiger costume. You would have had to either kill me or escape.”
“Excellent work young man. You really are very bright,” the woman said, “The only thing that you don’t know then is why. Why did I do it?”
“Money?” Kanako answered, saying exactly what Daichi was thinking.
“No. I will not sell these necklaces, and I will not let some fat American man sell them. These belong to my great grandmother, the real Madame Khanh. During the war they were taken from her. Now, some tourist comes to Vietnam and buys them? No! It isn’t right,” the woman said becoming upset.
The woman continued to tell them her life story and how she had learned about Mr. Theilman’s arrival and his intention to buy the jewelry. It was a good opportunity for her to take back her family heirlooms. She felt that it would restore honor to her family.
After hearing the story, Kanako looked at her husband. He knew what she was thinking…he felt the same way. They gave the woman the bag of jewelry, bowed slightly and left the room. They weren’t the police after all. What did they care about Mr. Theilman? This seemed like the right thing to do.
The couple had two more days at the Lucky Pilgrimage Resort. They played tennis and enjoyed every amenity that the resort had to offer. Despite two more days of police officers watching their every move, the couple had never felt more relaxed. At the end of the trip, they both agreed it was the best holiday that they’d ever had.