For the next three weeks, TEFL Tales blog, of TEFL Express, will be sharing a spooky mystery story to get you and your students in the mood for Halloween. This is going to be a three-part story and is appropriate for anyone pre-intermediate or above who wants to read an engaging mystery story. At the end of the story, you will see a button to download extra resources with vocabulary practice, comprehension questions and more. Read on for the story.
The couple was extremely tired when they were helped out of the shuttle bus and led into the resort. Daichi tried to lighten the mood, “Well beloved, we are finally here.”
Despite Daichi’s smile, his wife, Kanako, was not amused. To save money, Daichi had booked the cheapest flights from Tokyo, Japan to Vietnam’s ancient capital as possible. The flight should have only taken seven to ten hours, but their flight was twenty six hours each way! They had to stop in Moscow, Hong Kong and Hanoi before reaching their final destination. Kanako didn’t know this when Daichi gave her this surprise trip for her birthday.
“Are we really here? You told me we were going to go to Hue. I’m not even sure this is Hue! I haven’t seen another hotel or restaurant for the last ten minutes of the shuttle trip,” Kanako stated showing further frustration.
“That’s because this resort is remote and exclusive. I’m sure it’s not very difficult to get to the city center. Excuse me sir,” Daichi tried to get the attention of the man carrying his bag.
“Yes, sir. How may I help you?” the man asked.
Daichi looked at the man’s name tag, which read Minh Quang, “Hello Minh Quang. I was wondering how far it is to the city center.”
“Forty kilometers sir.”
That was a bit further than Daichi had hoped, “I see, but I’m sure you have some shuttles going into town, correct?”
“Of course sir. There is a shuttle at 5am that returns at 11am.”
“Only one shuttle?” Kanako asked not even trying to disguise her anger.
“Yes. Unfortunately, one of our drivers is sick and we can only make one trip a day. I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” Minh Quang continued to the front desk where they saw a very short man with an American accent yelling at the receptionist.
“What do you mean you can’t find it? I’m holding you personally responsible,” the short fat man shouted.
Daichi and Kanako stood far behind the man waiting for their turn. They didn’t want to get involved in the horrible argument in front of them. “Please Mr. Theilman, fill out the lost item form and I will do everything I can to return the item to you.”
“I don’t want to file a form, I want you to find it! It was probably you or one of your thieving staff that stole it anyway. Have you checked their fingers?” the man stomped away from the front desk and marched up the stairs.
The man wore a funny hat like a cowboy and had a long untrimmed white beard. It reminded Daichi of an angry cartoon character that he’d watched when he was young. Some silly American cartoon with Bugs bunny… “Daichi, can we please hurry up so that I can shower?”
Daichi awoke from his daydream and walked up to the front desk clerk. He handed over his passport and smiled, “Daichi and Kanako Endo to check in.”
The clerk was trying to recover after dealing with angry Mr. Theilman. She straightened her posture and tried hard to smile. “Welcome to the Lucky Pilgrim Resort and Spa. My name is Xuan. How can I help you?”
Daichi felt strange repeating himself, “I’d like to check in please…”
Daicihi had been studying English since he was a boy and many people commented on how natural he sounded. He was always very confident speaking English, but the clerk’s lack of understanding had him second-guessing himself. “Of course sir. Your room isn’t quite ready yet, may I suggest you tour the resort first? Perhaps you would like to go swimming in the pool?”
Daichi was worried that Kanako might explode and start yelling at this poor front desk employee. “I’m sorry, but we have been traveling for a long time. Is there any room you could move us to so that we can shower now?”
“I’m afraid that the other rooms aren’t prepared for guests. However, you can shower near the pool if you’d like.”
To his surprise, Kanako consented to take a tour. Maybe she was just too tired to get upset. The couple sat down in the reception area and were given a welcome drink of passion fruit juice.
“Xin moi,” said the Xuan as she set the drinks on some coasters.
“Aha! That means ‘welcome’, doesn’t it? Cam on,” Daichi said bowing slightly in a confused gesture, did Vietnamese people bow?
“What does that mean?” Kanako asked after Xuan left them alone.
“It means thank you.”
“Hmmppphh,” Kanako grunted and proceeded to stretch herself out on the sofa in the waiting area.
It was a grand waiting area with high ceilings from which hung a gigantic chandelier and fake flowers all around. Perhaps the most impressive thing, however, was the large spiral staircase that led up to the second floor. Beautiful scenes were carved into it and the stairs themselves were a dark stained wood.
While everything was very fancy, there was something a bit strange about everything as if they belonged to different decades. Daichi had the feeling that this was not intentional. The paintings were pop-art, and the chairs, clashing in style with nearly everything, were in the shape of giant plastic hands. There was a small felt panther figurine on the table. Resting on its back was a bowl of fresh fruit.
The resort was clean, but many of the decorations and utilities were in a state of disrepair. The hotel was built about thirty years ago, so perhaps it was very popular during the 90s. From the look of things, it had not remained popular. There was a skeleton crew of staff walking around the place who seemed more like they were at home than at work. As Daichi was finishing his welcome drink, he and Kanako were greeted by Diep, the guest relations officer.
Diep looked as though she’d been awoken from a nap. Her hair was messy and her blazer was a little wrinkly. “Would you like to see the resort now?” She asked fighting back a yawn.
Diep was a little overweight, but very jolly. She was overjoyed to tell her new guests about the Lucky Pilgrim Resort and Spa. She showed them the gym, several bars, the breakfast area, the tennis courts– in short, every amenity that a guest could imagine. However, none of them were very well maintained. The strange style of the place continued outside with odd, poorly crafted animal statues made of marble. There was one in particular of an elephant fighting a tiger that caught Daichi’s attention.
“Do you like it?” Diep asked hoping, and expecting, a positive reaction.
“Well, it is very interesting. Do tigers and elephants really fight?” Daichi asked.
“Yes, there is a Colosseum in Hue less than a kilometer from here. The king built it for the royal family to watch them fight. The elephants represent the government and the tigers represent the rebellion,” Diep explained.
Kanako was interested for the first time. “Why would the royal family allow that? What if the tigers won?”
“Oh, that never happened. The trainers would usually declaw the tigers and sometimes give them drugs so they weren’t as vicious. The elephants nearly always won. Maybe you would like to visit it tomorrow if the storm stops.”
They were nearly at the pool when it started to rain slightly. “Ooh, I think I feel it starting. How long is it meant to rain?” Kanako asked.
“Four days. It’s a tropical storm. I think you call it a typhoon. They are naming it Hien because they hope it will be nice and not too strong. Maybe it will only rain tonight.”
Within minutes it was a downpour and bursts of thunder and lightning were frequent. They didn’t even get to see the pool before they were forced to abandon the tour and head to the Lagoon Bar.
The two were sitting at the bar. Kanako stared into her glass of merlot. “Did you know there was going to be a typhoon?”
“Kanako, really. Why would I plan a trip if I thought there was a storm coming. There is just no way to predict these tropical storms,” Daichi took a long sip of his whisky, afraid to look at his wife.
In truth, Daichi knew that there was a very good chance the storm would hit central Vietnam. One of his friends was an amateur meteorologist and liked to try and predict the weather. He would look at all the major news sources and satellite images, then he would predict what was going to happen. Hito had always wanted to be a weatherman and continued to read a lot about the weather. At the moment, he was only the most trusted news source for weather among his friends on Facebook. During the day, he is a Maths teacher for junior high students.
“Did you know?” she repeated.
“Well, I didn’t know…and besides, I’d already purchased the non-refundable tickets. I just wanted to make your birthday memorable,” Daichi explained.
“Congratulations,” Kanako said walking away from her husband and a full glass of wine.
“Where are you going?”
“Hopefully, to our room. If not, I’m just going to find somewhere where I am not tempted to throw a drink in your face,” she began walking away.
“You should let her go. You’ll only make things worse right now,” said a faint voice from a table near the bar.
Daichi looked and saw an old woman drinking a cup of tea. He could almost smell the jasmine tea from where he sat on his bar stool. She was wearing a traditional Vietnamese ao dai and what could easily be described as too much jewelry for early in the afternoon. The old woman suddenly looked shy, as if she was ashamed of having said something. “Do you really think so?” Daichi asked.
“She’ll get over it. If you try to talk to her now, you’ll have a really big fight. Trust me, I was married for nearly fifty years. I hated it when my husband tried to convince me that I should be happy.”
Daichi stood up and walked over to her table taking his whisky with him. “That does sound like Kanako. May I?” Daichi motioned towards an empty seat at the old woman’s table.
“Of course. I could use the company. Not much to do by yourself during a storm. My name is Madame Khanh,” she held out her hand.
Madame? Daichi wasn’t sure if he should kiss her outstretched hand or shake it. In the end in he held it in both hands for a moment and shook his head in acknowledgement. She laughed at his awkward gesture. “So Madame Khanh. Why are you here alone?”
“My husband passed away many years ago. Still, I like to come back here on our anniversary. This was always our favorite resort. I have some very good memories here,” she said smiling.
“I’ll bet you do. What do you think I should do?” Daichi asked.
“Oh my dear boy…” Madame Khanh laughed again.
The two talked for nearly an hour before Madame Khanh finally excused herself from the table. She was feeling a bit tired and wanted to rest a bit before dinner. “My final advice to you Daichi is to send your wife a simple, kind and loving text message. Then, have another whisky and go up to meet her. I guarantee she’ll be in a much better mood and want to make the best of the situation.”
“Thank you Madame Khanh,” Daichi said, this time he didn’t hesitate to kiss her hand, which made them both laugh.
For an older woman, Madame Khanh was still very graceful as she walked away from the table. She hardly even used the cane that she carried. It was almost more of a decoration than something for walking support.
Daichi followed Madame Khanh’s advice and sent a text message to his wife. “Happy Birthday to my lover. Would you like to celebrate with half a bottle of champagne before dinner?”
He then followed the second piece of Madame Khanh’s advice and ordered a second glass of whisky. As he sat, waiting for Kanako to respond, he noticed something shiny on the ground. It was a large expensive looking ring with either a large ruby in the center or a rather impressive fake. It must have fallen off of Madame Khanh’s finger.
“Excuse me, can you please connect me with Madame Khanh’s room? I think she forgot something down here,” Daichi asked the bartender who was trying to secretly watch football on his smart phone.
“Who sir?” The young bartender asked quickly putting his phone down.
“The woman that I was just talking to.”
“Oh, uh, just a moment,” the man called the front desk and proceeded to communicate in Vietnamese for a few moments before continuing, “I’m sorry she’s not answering, but if you’d like I can give you her room number.”
“Really? Isn’t that against the law?” Daichi asked.
“Why, are you planning to rob her?”
The young man laughed, “Ok, then her room number is 708.”
Daichi took his drink with him as he rode the elevator to the the seventh floor. He knocked gently on the door. “Madame Khanh, I’m sorry to bother you, it is Daichi from the bar.”
There was no response, so he continued to knock progressively louder. He tried the handle, which still used an old fashioned metal key lock– it was unlocked. Not wanting to startle her, he opened it just enough to stick his head in slightly and repeat his apology about interrupting her. Still nothing.
There was, however, the loud sound of rain and wind. Louder than outside and Daichi even felt a bit of water hit his cheek. He opened the door all the way and was shocked too see the large main window wide open. The floor was sopping wet and the bed itself was soaked. The first thing Daichi did was to look out the window, fearing she may have fallen, but there was no sign of her. Madame Khanh seemed to have vanished.
Click on the button below for some vocabulary practice with the bold words from the story and some comprehension questions to use in class.