Friday, April 13, 2012

Thieves’ Bazaar - W. L. Heath

Story: Thieves’ Bazaar
Author: W. L. Heath
Source: AH’s Tales To Make You Quake & Quiver
Story Number: 96
This is just the second story that Heath contributed to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazine. The story is set in Karachi in Pakistan in a Chor(thief) Bazaar – a market in many Asian tourist cities where stolen goods are sold at throwaway prices.
Jan and her Father are on a world tour and they have reached Karachi as the final leg of their tour. Jan is accompanied on her shopping spree by Dave, whom she met on the ship. When they are conversing about buying gems, they are accosted by one Thomson, who is immediately branded as a shady character by Dave, who prides himself in recognizing a ‘Shady’ anywhere. Thomson tells them that the most important thing in buying gems is recognizing a valuable one when you see it – a talent which neither Jan nor Dave know about. He recommends a place where they could get the gems for a good price and at the same time be confident that they were not swindled. He also tells them that they wouldn’t be able to find it on their own and that he would take them there himself. Dave smells a rat but he fails to talk Jan out of it. So, he decides to accompany her and keep an eye out for trouble.
They end up in a shop in the Thieves’ Bazaar, the shop owner displays a lot of gems and Jan settles for a good looking Sapphire. The price also turns out to be extremely reasonable! It all works out as a smooth transaction and they return back to their ship. Dave feels that something has indeed terribly gone wrong but he can’t put his finger to it. The Sapphire looks genuine and the price is certainly not exorbitant. When he shares his thoughts with Jan, she also agrees that she felt the same way when she was in the gem shop. Nothing untoward happens till the next day. When Dave returns back to his room after Jan & her Father fail to keep up their appointment with him, he is perplexed to see the gem owner and a few other guys thoroughly searching his room. He is quickly conked over and when he comes around his room is in a complete mess. Though he was anticipating something bad to happen all along, the actual outcome turns out to be a lot more shocking and surprising than he had ever imagined with only one fact turning out to be as he had expected – that Thomson was indeed a ‘shady’!

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