The President’s Umbrella nodded. “Alright, but you guys choose first. You guys take the four, and the rest is mine.”
Hans looked at Li Du. This reaction showed the power dynamic between the two parties.
Li Du said, “Sure, we’ll choose first. The real ones and the fake ones have already been mixed up. Even the fakes should be worth at least a few thousand. There is still a good profit to be made.”
“Then may God bless you.”
The President’s Umbrella coldly said these words, then brought the clocks and boxes into the storage unit. He started inspecting, then signaled the two to enter and choose.
Although he felt something was off, this seemed like the best solution, and he felt that this was still a reliable way to get the real clocks. Everyone was betting on their luck; they would see whom Lady Luck smiled most favorably upon.
A pity for The President’s Umbrella that Li Du was cheating. He was not going to pick based on luck, as he wasn’t someone who liked to gamble either.
He let out the bug, and carefully observed where it went.
Since the auction at the hotel, he realized that the bug had a skill he was unaware of: When choosing antiques, it would pick the oldest one in sight.
Without betraying his expectations, when the bug flew out it went directly to center of the nine boxes; the bug then burrowed into a box and landed on the antique clock inside to absorb the time.
Li Du hastily recalled it. He pointed to the center box. “We’ll pick this one.”
Repeating this, the bug once again flew to the outermost left box without any hesitation.
When it burrowed into the clock, he once again recalled the bug. “That one too, on the left.”
After releasing the bug, it flew around the remaining boxes, much less interested as compared to the previous two times. After making a round, it flew back to Li Du’s shoulder.
Li Du was relieved. The remaining clocks were all the replicas. They were not antiques. The bug was not even interested in absorbing their time.
Randomly picking two other boxes, he said, “We’ll take these four. Hopefully something good is in these.”
“What about the remaining boxes and the cow hides?” Hans said.
“We’ll take half of them. The cow hides, we’ll take half too.” Li Du said.
He wanted to leave all of them for The President’s Umbrella as a form of compensation for taking the antiques, but when he was about to say this, he remembered an old saying: “One who is unaccountably solicitous is hiding evil intentions.”
If he waited until The President’s Umbrella appraised the clocks, found out all five were replicas, and then contact him that he wanted to give up the cow hides, would he still suspect him?
To keep his secret safe, he decided to act accordingly to how a normal person would, which would be fair and professional.
With the four clocks and half of the heavy rolls of cow hides, there were over twenty boxes altogether. With that, they started the journey home.
“It’s getting late, why don’t we spend the night here?” Li Du asked.
Hans shook his head. “Jerome has too many bandits and thieves. If they know that we’ve acquired some antique clocks, they would probably start trouble with us.”
“They’re that obnoxious?”
“All of Jerome is like a slum. Spending a night here is more dangerous than staying in North Korea!”
Li Du let out a laugh. “North Korea has good policing. It’s just that their government keeps too strict an eye on things.”
“Anyway, we can’t stay here,” Hans said.
When they returned to Flagstaff, the sky was already dark. They pulled into the driveway of Hannah’s apartment and saw that it was pitch black inside; only the dining room window had a dim streak of light shining in it.
“Strange, could it be that the electric bill wasn’t paid?” Hans asked, puzzled.
Li Du mocked, “Why don’t you suspect something is wrong with the circuits?”
“Clearly, you don’t know Hannah well enough,” Hans said. “She’s a handy woman. She can fix roofs, clear out drains, and even fix circuitry.”
Ah Meow gave a faint growl as it rushed into the dining hall, its eyes shining as if it had found something.
Li Du listened carefully, and said softly, “D*mmit, there’s another man’s voice. Could something have happened?”
Hans passed him a monkey wrench, while he himself held a sledgehammer. “We’ll sneak in from the backdoor. With Ah Meow, we should be able to take care of them.”
Li Du asked hesitantly, “Won’t that be dangerous?”
“With Ah Meow around, we have the advantage in terms of fighting strength.”
“But Ah Meow is just a young cat.”
“If he was fully grown, then would we even need to step out? He can deal with this all by himself!”
While they spoke quietly, they found their way to the backdoor by feeling through the darkness. Hans fiercely switched on the lights of the dining room, and saw two faces, a man and woman, looking at them in panic.
The woman was Hannah, dressed skimpily and sexily, her smooth hair hanging loosely at her shoulders. She wore a small shirt that fully exposed her belly, and a short skirt that only covered the bare minimum of her thighs.
The man was Stephen Chandler, the mechanic who had once worked on their Harley bike. In comparison, he was dressed ordinarily: just a long-sleeve t-shirt with a pair of jeans.
There were several exquisite dishes laid out on the table, and at the center was a lighted candle and a bottle of red wine. Apparently, the two were having a candlelit dinner.
Both parties stared at each other for some time, as they were all stunned. Hans reacted first, shouting, “Hannah! What the h*ll are you wearing? D*mmit, if mom and dad were alive, they would break your legs if they saw those clothes!”
Hannah was flustered. “Weren’t you guys going to come back tomorrow? Why are you back so early?”
Chandler tried his best to explain. “Big Fox, don’t misunderstand. We were just having a meal, nothing else.”
“If I wasn’t back so early, would you still be doing nothing else?” Hans sounded like he was about to burst his lungs shouting. “Sh*t, Li, let me give you some advice: after marriage, make sure you tell your wife the exact time that you’ll be back home every day. Occasionally, do a spot check. You’ll be enlightened.”
Li Du said furiously, “F*ck, don’t curse me!”
When no one noticed him, Ah Meow silently climbed onto the table, reached out its claws, took a piece of salmon, and then escaped under the chairs.
It was good that nothing had happened between Hannah and Stephen. Li Du took Ah Meow and left. Hans joined the candlelit dinner grimly, making the situation awkward.
When he got home, Rose had not returned. It seemed that there was another job for her to do.
The fridge was packed with meat and vegetables. Li Du saw that the salted peanuts he made were still there. He cut some celery after blanching them in hot water, and then stir-fried them with the peanuts, some spices, and chili oil.
A dish like this was appetizing and healthy, and suitable for a single person.
There was nothing for him to do at night, so he went to calculate how much he had earned.
Including today, he had participated in eight storage auctions and had made nearly 90,000 dollars. With taxes and the cost for Ah Meow’s medical fees, the expenses were close to 10,000, leaving him with 80,000 dollars.
After a rough conversion, that would be over 500,000 RMB. He could buy a nice apartment back in his hometown.
Li Du did not include the money that they would be making from the antique clocks. According to Hans, an antique clock would sell for at least 10,000 dollars, which meant that he would accumulate 100,000 dollars after selling the clocks. Chapter 59: Mother Mesa’s Home
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
After a good night’s sleep, Li Du got a call from Hans right when he opened his eyes, asking him to come over. They were going to sell the boxes and their half of the roll of rawhide.
Having jogged over to Hannah’s little apartment, Li Du exclaimed, “You woke up rather early today! Didn’t you go out last night?”
Hans seemed irritated. “I was frigging angry last night. Hannah really doesn’t know how to take care of herself. That silly girl, dressed like that, does she think she’s from the red-light district?”
Li Du tried to calm him down. “Hannah isn’t a little girl anymore. She’s been out and around, and she was classmates with Stephen. I’m sure that she knows what she’s doing.”
Hans was still resentful. “Let’s handle the stuff first. I need to think about Hannah’s problem properly.”
The small boxes were sold off quite easily. General stores liked old, handmade, beautiful wooden boxes like that.
Kevin inspected and caressed one of the wooden boxes repeatedly. Then, he sniffed it. “This is good. At least two-century-old namwood. Looking at the style, it may date from the time of George the Third at the earliest.”
Engraved on the box were some roses and the outline of a castle. But the engravings weren’t obvious as they had been done in a light hand.
“This is an antique?” Hans’s eyes lit up.
George the Third was King of England during the eighteenth century. He reigned from 1760 to 1801.
On the eighteenth birthday of George the Third, King George the Second gifted him with the large and opulent St James’s Palace. The castle engraved on the box was the view of St James’s Palace as seen from the front, and was the key to evaluating the box.
Many people had seen the ancient-looking boxes during the auction. But because they had been unable to see the engravings clearly, nor recognize the wood, no one had been willing to run a risk for the boxes.
Kevin shrugged. “Kiddo, not everything that’s old is an antique. You can pick up any stone in the Rocky Mountains, and it’d probably be millions of years old.”
Hans asked, “Then how much is this box worth?”
Hans caressed the box. “It’s made of namwood of the incense machilus type. This type of wood is quite precious, so it’ll bring up the value of the box. I guess that it’ll be able to sell for 1,000 dollars.”
Li Du was curious. “How could you tell that it was incense machilus?”
He and Hans had done their research on it, but had been unable to find out the specific type of wood.
Kevin placed it under the sun. “Look carefully,” he said. “The wood has a purple hue to it. Look at the beautiful grain. Sniff it. It has a unique fragrance. That’s a characteristic of incense machilus.”
“Your best price is 1,000 dollars?” asked Hans.
Kevin shook his head. “No, I meant that I can only sell it for up to 1,000 dollars. Not buy it at 1,000 dollars. I’m only willing to give you 500 dollars for it.”
Hans exclaimed, “Don’t be too greedy, mate!”
Kevin just shrugged. “These boxes aren’t easy to sell. It may just become old stock if I were to buy it. I don’t dare take a large risk.”
“Then we won’t sell it to you. Perhaps you know, but we Chinese love namwood. If we can get in contact with some rich Chinese people, we’ll be able to sell it for a higher price.”
At this, Kevin laughed. “You are right! The Chinese like namwood, but the species they favor is silkwood and not incense machilus. Alright, for the sake of your parents, Hans, I’ll give you 600 dollars for this box.”
“A 200-year-old namwood box for just 600 dollars?!” Hans wasn’t satisfied.
“The box isn’t that well made,” Kevin said. “It’s not a work of art! Even if it were 400 years old, it still wouldn’t be worth much. If it had been carved more elaborately, or if it had a portrait on it, 60,000 dollars wouldn’t be a problem!”
Li Du and Hans exchanged a glance. “Six hundred fifty dollars!” Hans insisted.
They had asked around at other shops before this. The highest price that other general stores were willing to give them had been 500 dollars.
Kevin waved a hand. “Fine, fine. I’ll close an eye-take the rest as spare change for Hannah. Six hundred fifty dollars it is.”
He took out his wallet and prepared to count out the money. Hans chuckled and stopped him. “No need to rush.”
Li Du laughed along with him. The two of them moved the other boxes down from the trailer. Kevin stared at the pile of boxes. “You b*stards, so many? Then the price of 650 dollars won’t do.”
“Don’t you know that antiques are more valuable if they’re rare? Such a large number of boxes means that they’re produced in bulk. How can such things be valuable!?”
Hans smiled slyly. “Sorry. Not everything that’s old is an antique. These are chests! A set of them! The more there are, the more valuable!”
Kevin shook his head and sighed painfully. “I’ve really done it today.”
They sold the twenty-five boxes for 16,500 dollars. Just this income alone made them want to jump for joy.
This had been an unexpected piece of fortune. They hadn’t realized that the boxes were so valuable.
Of course, the other treasure hunters hadn’t either. Otherwise, they would have jumped at them even without considering the antique clocks.
They sold the raw cowhide to a leather shop for 500 dollars. With that, they earned a total of 17,000 dollars.
All they had to do now was sell off the antique clocks. But they couldn’t sell them off just like that; they needed an expert to appraise them first.
They discussed the matter and decided that they wouldn’t immediately sell the clocks. They would put an advertisement on the internet to test the waters first.
The President’s Umbrella nodded. “Alright, but you guys choose first. You guys take the four, and the rest is mine.”