After enjoying the restaurant and residence of the business magnate, Li Du spent the next two days searching the storage units.
He investigated the 25 units thoroughly. He found five that had significant value and diligently noted down their numbers.
In the middle of March, the Red Rock Storage Co. began the auction. The two rushed to the site in the early morning.
When they descended from the pickup, the treasure hunters who arrived before them turned their attention towards the two, many passionately greeting them.
"Hey Big Fox, China Li. Good morning, what a surprise to see you here."
"Any good stuff today? Let us in on some info, buddy. We haven't had any good opportunities for two months."
"For the sake of God, Big Fox, don't take all the good stuff away."
Hans seemed to enjoy being the center of attention. However, he did not enjoy it for long, for a group of treasure hunters that came later brought a piece of news.
"Fred, why are you here? Did you rush over here from Phoenix?"
"Of course I had to come. The units this time have some excellent antique clocks, and I want to test my luck."
"What? Antique clocks? Where did you get that info?"
"Come on, guys, don't you know? It's all over the whole of Flagstaff. That guy Cocky was spreading the news yesterday."
When Li Du and Hans heard this, their hearts sank.
It was at this moment that Hans's phone rang. He saw who the caller was and gritted his teeth, saying, "D*mmit, it's Andrew that b*stard!"
As expected, Andrew's voice came out from the phone. "Enjoy your auction. A batch of antique clocks—you better get them! Good luck!"
"Damn you, you underhanded scum!" Hans growled.
Andrew asked indifferently, "When was I being underhanded? Didn't I tell you a valuable piece of information? I did tell you guys. It's just that I said it to many others also."
Indeed, the two had fallen for this trick. When they set up the bet, they did not ask for the other party to keep the information a secret.
Even if that agreement had been in place, Andrew could always spread the info by making use of someone else's mouth.
Feeling the rising tensions, Li Du's expression stiffened. "This situation isn't good."
Hans quickly decided what to do. "We need to form an alliance—we should choose those who are threatening, or else we might get burned trying to get a unit, and what's worse, we might fail to get the unit with the clocks."
"How do we form an alliance?"
"Let me do it. Tell me the quality of the units later." Hans waved his hand calmly, showing Li Du not to panic.
The auctioneer entered the site. He wore a microphone headset, with the speaker hanging at his waist; he had a rough appearance, which was an appropriate style for a mining town.
"Same old rules—everyone should be familiar with the same old rules, no entering the units, no touching anything that doesn't belong to you, no fighting and no insults. Whatever else you do, I don't care. Alright, get in."
Because Andrew had leaked the info of the antique clocks, many people came to the auction. With about a hundred people, the auctioneer formed groups of four and brought them in group by group.
The first unit was unit 012. There was a large blast fan at the door. It looked aged, with some parts of the paint chipping off.
"What's the price of this blast fan?" Li Du asked.
Hans pondered this for a moment, and said softly, "If this can still be used, it still has some demand. I think selling it for five, maybe six hundred should be no problem."
"Then let's set five hundred dollars for the base price of this unit?"
Red Rock was full of rubbish storage units. Old and run-down, with not much value, the starting bid was low. "Unit 012, 012 012, the starting bid is fifty bucks, anyone willing to go higher than fifty?"
"Alright someone has taken it for fifty, what about a hundred, a hundred, a hundred, anyone up for it?"
"Five hundred!" A bright voice rang across the crowd, surprising the treasure hunters.
Li Du turned his head and saw that the one who spoke was a huge man with a full beard. He had shades on and wore a stern expression, one like a bodyguard.
Hans looked, and said in a soft voice, "D*mmit, The President's Umbrella. That guy came too."
When he heard these words, Li Du was shocked. "Did I hear you right? That guy has connections with the President?"
Hans laughed. "That's his nickname. See, he's always wearing some neatly-ironed suit, shades and a stern face. Doesn't he look like a bodyguard? That's why we call him the 'President's Umbrella.'"
This guy was very wealthy and had a good eye. His well-calculated bid scared off almost all the treasure hunters.
Someone made another offer, but The President's Umbrella immediately shouted a bid of eight hundred dollars, successfully crushing the other treasure hunter, and claimed the first unit.
Seeing this, Hans nodded, and said, "It'll be him then—follow me."
The two went to The President's Umbrella. "Hey, Rawls. How have you been doing? Looks like you've been earning well."
The President's Umbrella remained unsmiling. "Not too bad. I went to Florida for a while and made some spare change. Not as much as you guys."
"There's not much time for small-talk, so I'll cut to the chase. How about we form an alliance today? We'll split the profits from the antique clocks."
The President's Umbrella slowly scanned the two with a fastidious eye.
Just when Li Du thought there was no chance of cooperating, he suddenly said, "According to the info, there are many clocks here, but only two of them are antique. The rest are replicas. In fact, there were even more replicas, but those were sold off."
Li Du was shocked. The info that they had gotten was not as detailed as this!
Hans pulled him over without a change in expression. He nodded seriously. "Correct, only two are real antique clocks. But there's enough profit to split amongst us, isn't there?"
The President's Umbrella nodded. "Besides this, what else do you know?"
Clearly, reading between the lines, he meant that if what you guys know is the same as mine, then there's no need to cooperate.
Hans was stumped. They really did not know anything more. Andrew did not want them to earn from this auction.
Considering the situation at hand, Li Du smiled and said, "We know which unit!"
The President's Umbrella took off his shades and studied his expression. Eventually, he nodded. "Alright, write it down on paper. We're allies now."
Both parties high-fived. It was a somewhat successful alliance. With this, Hans heaved a sigh of relief and started explaining to Li Du the rules of alliances amongst treasure hunters.
Sometimes, when treasures appeared in units that one hunter could not handle by himself, or when two people with money had their eyes on the same unit, an alliance was necessary.
The strategy of an alliance was that, because there was always money to be made, both parties would end up in a mad bidding race without it, ending with both sides losing out. Thus, alliances were popular to keep costs lower.
However, most of the time, there were only two people in an alliance. More than that and the profits would have to be split even further, and the strategy would become pointless.
Li Du did not make any moves for the next four units. Except for the first one, the rest were all trash; buying them would not earn the trio a single cent.
When the sixth unit, which was unit 240, started being auctioned, he gave Hans a look. "This unit is a big one," he said quietly.
Hans nodded, and then gave The President's Umbrella a signal. The latter entered the crowd, declaring that he was taking part in the bid.