Ma Cheng and his team were all experienced, crafty foxes; they notice Li Du's enigmatic smile and become more guarded.
But they were not able to uncover the truth, as the treasure hunters started to crowd around to drag them off to eat and drink and appraise the items they had brought.
There were many hunting knives; the treasure hunters stuck the gleaming knives into the ground and they reflected the fiery light from the fire and gave the place a combative air.
Frank was dumbstruck by the sight; he asked, "So these are the hunting knives you guys got from the Hopi Reservation? Gosh, they are beautiful. You're going to make a killing this time!"
"Yes," Hans said, "we have made a killing. Too bad you guys didn't go to Page. Otherwise, we could have gone to the Hopi Reservation together and brought not just hunting knives back, but even coffins."
"Coffins?" Ding Xiaofeng looked startled.
Li Du explained, "The Hopis are well-skilled in making coffins. Their techniques are all by hand, the procedures are complex and scientific. They even make them in a variety of stylesit's really true that they produce all types of artwork."
"Oh," Ding Xiaofeng said in realization, "that's what it is?"
Li Du nodded. "Yes, just that. You didn't know?"
"Haha," Ma Cheng interrupted, "we're based in California, and do not know much about the Hopi. Besides, we are mainly in charge of Asian artworkother colleagues take care of the North America region."
The drinking competition started and a bunch of treasure hunters took off their shirts as they started toasting each other. There was wine, whiskey, and cocktails for them to drink to their hearts' content.
Having avoided the treasure hunters who had wanted to drink with him, Ma Cheng walked over to Li Du and asked, "Li, don't you have something to show us? How come we have yet to see it?"
Li Du sighed, "Hang on, let me go get it."
He took out a copper glove covered with verdigris from the safe in the cabin and asked, "Can you tell what this is?"
Holding the metal glove, he looked at it using the light from the fire and then yelled for the other two men to hurry over. The three of them then started discussing it.
After the discussion, Ma Cheng turned over to ask, "Li, this thing of yours is a little strange. To verify its identity, we need to strip off the verdigrisis that okay?"
"How do you strip off the verdigris?" Li Du asked.
"The best way is to use abrasive blasting," Ma Cheng said. "That is, to spray dry or suspended abrasives onto the surface of this copper glove, and remove the surface layer of oxidized rust.
"You can also use fine sawdust, talc, acetic acid, and glass powder mixed with ammonia. They will react with the copper carbonate in the verdigris to form a soluble blue copper-ammonia complex."
Li Du gave them a wry smile. "We have none of these things."
Du Dayuan also smiled. "You probably have white vinegar? We can wipe it with white vinegar. But even if we can't remove this substance completely, as long as we can remove a portion, we should be able to identify it."
There was plenty of white vinegar, so he went to get a bottle. The three of them dipped the brushes into the white vinegar before gingerly brushing the glove.
As the greenish liquid flowed down, the true appearance of the copper glove became apparent. Some letters appeared on the back of the glove; the three of them gathered to discuss it further.
Eventually, Ma Cheng said, "There's news for you. Li, where did you get this thing? This is a sacrificial hand from the Yemen region. This should be quite valuable if it is real."
Li Du said, "My friend placed this in my care. He said it was from Arabia, not sure if it is real or fake."
Ma Cheng's excitement mounted. "From Arabia? Then it could be a real sacrificial hand!"
"Is it very valuable?"
Ma Cheng nodded vigorously. "Of course. The sacrificial glove was a religious token used commonly between 100 to 300 AD. As to which religion it belonged to, it is not clear. But what's for sure is that it is from a local religion that has long since disappeared."
He showed the glove to Li Du, pointing out the letters engraved on the back. "This is ancient Yemen wording. It's not clear what's written, but it's likely connected to the past religion and its gods.
"This type of Arabian copper glove is often modeled after a real human hand. Their owners wished to put their hands into the hands of the gods they admired so as to be favored. That's why there was such an item."
Li Du was impressed. "Master Ma, you are indeed knowledgeable."
Ma Cheng shook his head. "This is not my fortewe arrived at this conclusion after the three of us discussed the matter. If you show this to an expert in Middle Eastern religions, he may be able to share even more!"
At this point, Ding Xiaofeng said, "Oh yes, isn't Grigoras an expert in Middle Eastern religions? Let's show it to himhe should know about this."
Ma Cheng glanced at Li Du somewhat awkwardly. "Grigoras is in LA. Li, are you able to come with us to LA sometime soon?"
"Sometime soon?" Li Du shook his head. "Afraid not. I have to attend Flagstaff's Fall Festival at the end of the month."
Du Dayuan said, "If, Li, you trust us enough, then we can bring the sacrificial hand back to show our colleague and then update you."
"How could this work?" Ma Cheng frowned. "That's too much to ask. We've only known him for a day."
"No problem," Du Dayuan said, "let's speak to Grigoras first and get an estimate from him. Then we can give Li a guarantee according to the estimate"
"Right," Ding Xiaofeng said in agreement. "If we haven't got enough money, we still have the rubies and jewelry, right? It would definitely be enough, since it's only meant to be a guarantee for Li."
Li Du laughed to himself. They answered their own questionswhat a well-calculated move.
He took the glove back without a word, then asked, "When's a good time to go to LA?
"Best to make it before the Fall Festivalotherwise, we haven't got much time. That would be these few days before the end of the month," Ma Cheng pondered.
"Fine," Li Du said, "then I shall not attend the Fall Festival, and go with you guys to LA."
Ma Cheng and the rest were momentarily stunned and then nodded. "Good, that's good."
Li Du returned to the cabin to put away the copper glove. He went up to the balcony on the second story and leaned against the railing. As he looked down at the rowdy crowd, he became lost in his thoughts.
After downing a can of beer, he whipped out his mobile phone. "Hey, Luo Qun, it's me."
"I know it's you," Luo Qun said. "Who else would call me by that name? What is ityou're not coming back again tonight? Fooling around out there again?"
Annoyed, Li Du said, "What fooling around? I'm working."
"Working on wrapping your arms around babes?" Luo Qun asked scornfully.
Hearing her tone, Li Du could imagine the lady pouting as she spoke.