Scroll down for Chapters One - Three
My first real look at the market was a hurried tour up one aisle and down the next. I followed Shannon and Milton as they led the way. Cisco was set up on a bluff that over-looked the ocean. It had switchback-like aisles, with the only official way in or out at the entrance. However, the entire space was wide open, the view of the ocean unobstructed. There were no canvas walls like I was used to, but each vendor's space was an open area, borders being determined by a little extra space or a display table or two.
Though I was enormously curious about the missing item, I couldn't help but look at products as we were rushing by. I saw fresh fruit of all kinds, seafood at almost every turn, vegetables that seemed to have impossibly rich colors and flowers that my friend Abner would recognize but I didn't. The artwork was stunning - paintings, sculptures, jewelry and pottery that begged me to stop.
Finally, we did stop. The items in the small and crowded stall in front of us were colorful and attractive and at first glance seemed to be the sort of mass-produced things that tourists bought for souvenirs. There were plates, thimbles, bells and spoons - all illustrated with Chinese characters.
"Did you call the police, Carolyn?" Shannon said to the woman behind the front table.
"I did, right after I talked to you," Carolyn said. Carolyn was short and blond and kind of reminded me a little of me. "Oh, Shannon, this is just horrible."
"Let's not panic, yet. Tell me what happened."
"I locked the pendant in here." Carolyn put her hand on a metal cash box on the table. "The buyer is supposed to meet me here in a few minutes. I went to get it and it was gone."
"Did you bring the cash box in with you today or was it already here?" Shannon asked.
"I brought it today, but I unlocked it earlier and then got distracted before I opened it. I didn't look inside until a few minutes ago."
"So it could still be back at the store?"
"I called Freddie. He's looking, but I'm sure I put it in here last night."
Milton turned to me. "Carolyn and her husband Freddie run both a souvenir shop and a high end auction house in Chinatown. Freddie's parents came from Shanghai and started the businesses. Carolyn and Freddie have been running the show for about ten years."
"What is she missing?" I asked.
"I'm guessing it's the jade pendant they sold at auction earlier this week. It sold for $25,000. Freddie and Carolyn have been taking turns watching it."
"Whoa. That makes my stomach hurt," I said.
"And, here comes the buyer now." Milton nodded down the aisle.
I turned and watched as . . .