Authors: Hazel Edwards
Tags: #Children's Fiction - Mystery
They'd been sitting in the lounge for ages.
âAt least an hour more,' said William .'They think it's something to do with fumes from a cleaning spray used in the plane last night. But it's a worry. This delay is upsetting meeting times for passengers with business deadlines in Tokyo.'
âLike Mr Kei, the courier with the silver chain?' suggested Amy. âAnd his partner, the chunky man.'
âYou noticed him too, did you?' William was surprised. âI'm not sure they're partners.They don't even chat.' Quickly, he changed the subject. âYou'll all be given a free meal in the airport restaurant while you're waiting. I'll go and get the vouchers for you. Wait here.'
Mr Kei looked unhappy. He fiddled with the silver chain. He picked up a newspaper and then put it down. He moved around a lot. Perhaps he needed to go to the toilet? Or maybe he was just worried about not meeting his Tokyo contact on time?
âWould you like me to look after your brief case?' offered Amy.
If you could babysit an animal, then surely she could brief-case- sit? Amy had lots of experience animal-sitting for Aunty Viv. Looking after Wilhemina the goat was the hardest. She chewed through everything. A brief-case would be easier to look after than Wilhemina. But Amy had a feeling that Mr Kei was not going to let the brief case out of his sight. And she was right.
âNo thanks. It has to stay with me at all times.'
âWhy don't your bosses send the material in the post? Email it? Or send it by fax?'asked Amy as she sorted out her coins. She spread them across the lounge seat. Brown ones. Silver ones. Cents. Rupees. Pennies. Shillings.
She'd been a coin collector since she was five. Because the twins travelled so much, they often had small change left over. When they changed currencies, travellers often wanted to get rid of odd coins. Sometimes they spent them on sweets. Occasionally an airline collected them for a charity. Sometimes passengers offered them to nearby children. Amy scored a few that way. Other times Amy added or swapped the coins.
âBecause the material is secret. Sometimes information is priceless, just like artworks,' said Mr Kei as Tess approached. She'd been restlessly pacing up and down to fill in the waiting time, like the rest of them.
Tess flipped a coin from her own bum bag. âHeads or tails?' she asked.
Mr Kei looked up sharply, his eyes following the coin.
âTails,' said Christopher quickly. The coin dropped, rolled and landed, with a tail upwards. Clumsily Mr Kei picked it up, looked at it closely and handed it back to Tess. “Look after it.'
âTails it is,' said Tess. âYou won. So I have to tell you a story. Do you want a real one or a made-up story?'
âReal,' said Christopher quickly. He liked adventure stories with plenty of action that he could picture in his head. Like a movie running in his mind.
Tess was a good storyteller. Her voice changed on the spooky bits as she told them the story of the Gold Buddha. âThis story started hundreds of years ago. A beautiful, solid gold Buddha was kept in a temple. There was a revolution in the country. The monks who ran the temple wanted to protect the Buddha . So it disappeared. The Buddha was thought to have been cut up, melted down and sold for bullion . Bullion is like solid gold bars. This was so the soldiers couldn't get their hands on it.'
âWhat happened to it?' Christopher was absorbed by the story and didn't notice Mr Kei listening in the background.
âWell, âTess paused to create suspense,' Years later, a young monk was told to clean up the temple.'
The twins nodded. Aunty Viv was always telling them to clean up their bedrooms. Luckily, their bedrooms were smaller than the temples they'd seen.
Tess continued.' When he was cleaning up, the monk dropped some water on a ceramic statue.'
âOn purpose?' asked Amy. She often dropped plates. People didn't ask you to set the table so often if you were known to be clumsy.
âBy accident. And the gold showed through. The Golden Buddha hadn't been lost, just hidden under another work of art!'
âWow!' Tess continued. âApparently the Chief Monk had told an artist to cover it and make a new art piece. Then they didn't know what to do. Should they break the outside work of art to get to the gold? Or should they just leave it?'
âDid they break it?' asked Amy.
“Yes. The King ordered it. And the Golden Buddha was revealed.'
âAce story,' said Christopher. If he'd been the young monk, he would have been proud to discover the treasure. Tess looked thoughtful. âHiding something valuable behind or underneath something less valuable, is the way to go. Or carrying it casually instead of locked up, is safer.' Tess put the coin away in her bum bag, flicking her long beads out of the way.
Amy wondered if she was talking about more than the Golden Buddha story. Was something valuable hidden underneath one of Tess's belongings? Or inside her ceramic beads?'
Mr Kei commented, âClever Chief Monk. Should learn from him.' Then he drifted away. âWhat d'you think caused the cloud in the plane?' Amy asked Tess.
âA mist,' replied Tess. âFrom the cleaning detergent.'
Amy wondered if someone had been trying to gas the passengers? She shared this with her brother who didn't think much of THAT idea.
âWhy would they want to gas passengers?'
âTo rob them? Take their valuables? Perhaps they were Air Bandits?'
Christopher was scornful. âOn a plane? Remember what you said about stealing the painting. There's nowhere to go! Where would they hide afterwards? And who are they? I didn't see any thieves. Just some unhappy couples with the wrong prints.'
Amy thought for a bit. Where would they run to? Unless they took over and flew the plane.
âIf anyone was gassed, the pilot would be too. Then the plane would go down and whoever started the gas would crash along with everyone else.'
Christopher didn't think much of this gas idea of Amy's . She'd had better ones.
âEasier places to steal a painting, than in a plane,' said Tess but she didn't explain further. She threw a used phone card in the bin. Tess had been cleaning the outside pockets of her backpack. âCan I have it?' Amy put out her hand to pick up the card.
âBut it's all used up. There are no blanks left on the card. You can't get any more calls.'
âDoesn't matter. I collect them.' Amy showed her retro-card collection bound by the rubber band. âAnd I haven't got this pattern.'
âI like the native animal design,' said Christopher looking closely at
Amy's top card. Although he liked drawing, he wasn't really a collector. That was Amy's thing. âAnd the dinosaur's okay too.'
A passenger had been watching them. He walked across as Amy flipped through her cards. âMy name's Samuel. I'm a dealer. Would you like to show me your collection? Valuable cards pop up in the strangest places.
Samuel shook hands. â Retro- phone card collecting is the fastest growing hobby worldwide. My son started at your age. Now his business is ... âhis voice trailed away.' Mainly young collectors now, like you. â Amy knew that. Lots of kids at her school in Sydney were collecting them.
But because she and Christopher went through airports often, that's where Amy got most of hers. Sometimes travellers left their unfinished cards in the airport phone when their plane departure was called.
Samuel explained,' âThere's a whole world of collectables. Stamps, coins antiques and porcelain. Most are losing their value or just keeping pace. Phone and sports cards are booming. Going up by more than fifty percent each year.'
Tess was listening closely. âSome antiques are increasing in value too.' she said. âLike ancestral Ming vases, even single ones.'
âKnow about them too do you?' Samuel turned to Tess.
âJust a bit,' replied Tess. âI wonder who that print belonged to? The one with the Ming vase.'
âWhich photo?' asked Samuel.' My prints weren't ready from FAST-FOTO when our plane left. Mine were reprints of some of my stock for my new catalogue.'
Amy explained about the photo mix up and pointed where Red Cloak was holding the photos which he said he'd return to the airport FAST-FOTO shop later. Samuel looked across to the game in progress. The R.P.G.s had their luggage stacked in a circle behind them.
Amy flipped through her cards. She stopped at her favourite, the life saving one. âYou've got that?' Samuel peered at it. A flush of excitement came over his face. He talked faster. âThat was one of the first issued. Do you have one of the $6.00 cards?' Amy shook her head and showed him. âOnly the $1.50.'
âIs it worth a million?' Christopher asked jokingly. He didn't expect it to be worth more than a couple of dollars. Amy was always going on about her collection, but most times he didn't listen.
Samuel explained âAt first, phone-cards were just a gimmick. Now I've got a collector who is desperate to get hold of early and special edition cards. The Geelong Trial Issue' is one he wants.' Samuel peered closer at Amy's card.' It would be worth your while to sell me the lifesaver card.'
Amyâd kept it for ages. Aunty Viv had bought the phone card for her. She didn't want to let it go. It was part of her set, her special one. And she didn't really like the way Samuel treated her, as if she couldn't think for herself.
âNo. Sorry.' âI guess you're one of the kids who got in early and have a collection that cost you next to nothing.' Samuel sounded a bit annoyed as if he liked to get a bargain.
âMmm.' Amy didn't know what her cards were worth.But the weekend T.V. news had said that a dealer in Sydney sold a limited edition $5 World Wide Fund for Nature card for $2,700 . Highest price paid for a phone card in Australia. Unfortunately, Amy DIDN'T have one of them.
âYou're going to Tokyo too aren't you. Things are quite expensive there. Like to have a bit of extra pocket money?' Samuel persisted.
Amy looked up. âYes. But I'm not selling, at the moment.'
âHow much ? âChristopher asked, but Samuel just said,âNo point in making an offer if she won't sell. At the rate cards are being stolen, it doesn't make much difference. Even the special response squad is investigating the latest sports card thefts. Thieves broke into my son's All Sports Cards store and took sports cards valued at more than $25,000. Insurance will cover it, but...'
âThat much!' said Christopher. He wondered why Samuel was telling them this. Was he just upset? Was he looking for business or had he been involved?
âThe most expensive card was a Micheal Jordan 1986-87 ârookie' card worth $2,500. Only five exist locally,' said Samuel.
Amy knew some kids collected basketball sports cards.
Tess interrupted,' You seem to know a lot about the theft?'
âAll Sports Cards' is run by my son, but I own it. Well organised thieves sell overseas or interstate in the Sunday markets. Keen collectors will pay anything to complete a set.'
Tess said,' Collectors have their passions. Just depends how you feel about what you collect. Could be worth millions or worth nothing. I know a collector in Tokyo who'd pay anything for a special piece of art. And he doesn't mind how it gets it. Other people are happy with a copy, especially if they don't know the difference.'
âWho's the collector?' asked Amy.
âAn Asian millionaire, Mr Ng.'
âHow d'you know him?' Samuel looked surprised. âHave you met him in person?'
âNot face to face.' said Tess. âBut we've been in contact.'
In the background, Mr Kei walked across to the drink machine, changed his mind and walked on.
Amy started to wonder. Airfares cost a lot. How could Tess afford to fly to Tokyo? How could she afford to live in Tokyo? Did she have a secret way of earning money?
âWork connections. I know a bit about art. My uncle died and left me a very valuable artefact,' explained Tess. âAnd I'm going to sell it, soon. Mr Ng might be interested in making up a set.'
âIf you've got it with you, I'll have a look,' offered Samuel.' Mr Ng is a very private man. Not many people have seen him.'
Tess said quickly. âGot a photo of the artefact with me. Easiest way to show something too valuable to carry. â
âD'you want to show me or not? I do deal in some artefacts. âHe started to move away. âBut coins or cards interest me more. Amy, if you change your mind about the Geelong Trial Issue, give me a call. I'm going to check something in the newsagent.'
âI've got a phone call to make. Then you can have the used card Amy. â Tess left hurriedly. She caught up with Samuel and talked earnestly.
As Amy put away her coins and cards, Christopher sketched the chunky man who had been sitting silently next to Mr Kei on the plane. His hair was long and untidy. BRUT was the name on his luggage tag, but he didn't use after-shave. His dark whiskers were just sprouting.