News of the achievements of Hans and Li Du had spread throughout Phoenix. They returned to Phoenix as famous people this time.
Just like the sports world and the entertainment industry, the storage auction industry had its own circles, both small and large. These people lived, ate, and even got their entertainment from the same places.
After looking at the storage units, Hans explained the situation in Phoenix to Li Du while on the way to one of the hotels popular amongst treasure hunters.
"Why didn't we stay here the last two times we came to Phoenix?" asked Li Du.
Hans shrugged. "You Chinese have a deep culture. Is there a saying for someone returning to a place to show off what he's got? How would you say it?"
"Yī jǐn huán xiāng."
"Yes. I'm going to 'yǐ jīn huàn xiáng,'" Hans said with the intonation all wrong. "I didn't want to go there last time because I was afraid that I'd be made fun of!"
The hotel they went to was called "Steam Energy." It was a wooden building with a spire roof. A path paved with pebbles led to its door, with oil lamps lining both sides.
Hans carried a box with him when he got down from the truck. Li Du walked ahead of him. When he stepped on the stairs in front the building, an exhaust pipe mounted on top of the door puffed out white fumes that looked like steam with a loud whistling noise.
He was shocked and staggered backward. Having steam blown onto you wasn't something to be laughed about!
Someone inside laughed. "Don't be scared, man. That's just smoke from dry ice. It won't hurt anyone."
Hans hollered at the man who spoke, "Ironman, you b*stard, you scared my brother. Think hard about how you're going to repay us for that!"
The hotel's interior had been decorated in the steampunk style. There were screw propellers, valves, cogwheels and bearings on the wall. The furniture looked like machinery, and some of the chairs looked like sports car seats!
A smiling, middle-aged, white man walked out from behind the counter. He put down the rag he had been holding. "I'll compensate your brother, but not you. Come on, China Li. Get over here for a Steam Cocktail."
Li Du had thought that all steampunk fans were rough, burly men or rebellious youths. But the middle-aged man in front of him seemed quite mild-mannered; much different from what he had expected.
The middle-aged man wore a tailcoat and a top hat. He held a walking stick and even had a pocket watch on him. He looked just like a European gentleman from a hundred years ago.
Hans introduced him. "This is Bedes Rothschild. We call him Ironman. Do you know of the Rothschilds, Li?"
Li Du was floored. "The legendary Rothschilds?"
The Rothschild family was one of the most mysterious, ancient families in the world. They were said to have controlled the world's economy for the last two centuries and were often portrayed in popular literature.
Bedes just smiled. "Don't listen to Hans. He's just pulling your leg."
Li Du glanced back at Hans, who was laughing in delight, and gave him the middle finger.
Going back to the counter, Bedes nodded. A youth with delicate features started to mix a cocktail.
The youth, with his attire, looked just like a noble who had walked out of an old Hollywood movie.
The cocktail was very interesting. There may have been some dry ice in it because when it was served, white steam wafted up from it. No wonder it was called Steam Cocktail.
"Just one?" Hans asked.
"For your brother as a token of my apology."
Hans opened the box. "That's so sad. You b*stard, I thought of you this time! Look, I even brought you a present!"
In the box was an antique clock; the counterfeit they hadn't sold.
Seeing it, Bedes broke into a smile. He carried it over and started to examine it closely.
Hans snatched the cocktail and drank it while saying, "It's a counterfeit. No need to look. It's a gilt-bronze French-style mantel clock with Meissen porcelain flowers. The real one was made in the same year as the Blucher you love so much."
The Blucher was made in 1814. It was the world's first steam locomotive, named after General Blucher of Prussia. The general had been hailed as a hero of England at the time after leading England to victory over Napoleon's army.
Bedes laughed. "Very good. This gift has made my day. Come, I'll show you your rooms before we and drink 'til we're tanked!"
The delicate looking youth curled his lip in contempt. "Big Fox, you really are a stingy fellow who knows how to build relationships and solicit favors. We already have plenty of worthless counterfeits like this."
Just as Hans was about to answer, a group of seven or eight people came down the stairs. They greeted Hans and Li Du.
"Hey, Big Fox, what brings you to Phoenix?"
"Sh*t, this guy must have caught the scent of treasure. Can you let us tag along with you?"
"China Li, why don't you change your partner? I'm way more dependable than Big Fox."
Hans wore an arrogant expression and flashed his middle finger at them. "You dare to try to steal my partner? Get lost! Li and I aren't just partners, we're brothers! Brothers!"
Bedes gave the two of them a standard room with two large beds. The door looked like the cabin door of a ferry. There were even rudders at the head of the beds. It was a themed hotel.
When Bedes went in, he rapped on the door and said, "The sound-proofing is very good. You can talk about any confidential matters in there."
Hans smiled. "Of course. We trust you."
"If you trust me," said Bedes, "then for the sake of the antique clock, I'll give you a warning."
"What is it?"
"Be careful this time. A lot of people are watching you. You may not get anything."
Hans frowned. "We haven't earned much. Why have we been targeted so fast?"
Bedes asked, "Not much? Your antique clocks alone sold for over 100,000 dollars. How many people in Phoenix can earn so much in one go?"
Later, they went downstairs to drink. Within minutes some treasure hunters approached them.
Hans and Li Du quickly became the center of attention. Some people asked them general questions, but others asked about why they had come to Phoenix.
"Do you have any inside information? If you do, can you let us in on some of it?"
"Big Fox, you're a generous fellow, aren't you?"
"For Heaven's sake, show us the way! I haven't made anything this month!"
Some guy just couldn't stand it and made his way through the crowd to Li Du. "Don't get ahead of yourselves. This is Phoenix, not that countryside Flagstaff where you come from. Don't even think about getting anything from an auction in Phoenix!"
Li Du smiled and said humbly, "Even if we don't earn anything, we might learn something here, and that seems good to me."
A white guy sporting a tattoo on his neck glared at Li Du as if to provoke him.
Hans's eyes bulged, he looked about ready to explode. Li Du put a hand on his shoulder and turned to Bedes. "We've had enough drinks. We'll go for a walk now. See you later."
Before leaving, he turned back and asked carelessly, "Oh yeah. Did you buy a clock earlier? How much did you pay for it?"
Bedes was taken aback. He pointed at the clock. "Oh. You mean this one? I bought it for 1,000 dollars."
"I just bought an old house back in Flagstaff. It needs a nice antique clock. How about selling it to me? I'll pay you 1,500 dollars for it."
Bedes shrugged. "Why not? I already have—"
"Hey, Ironman. I'll give you 2,000 dollars for it," the White guy with a tattoo on his neck cut in.