Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“The names of all the appraisers in Nassau are on the list you asked for.”
Marvin presented a piece of paper. “Two of them are on vacation, and one has been in the trade center since morning. So, these two are the ones you should focus on,” said Marvin as he pointed at two circled names on the list.
“Thank you. You’ve done pretty good this time.”
Zhang Heng’s compliment had put a smile on Marvin’s face.
Since time was of the essence, Zhang Heng needed external help. Apart from Marvin, two pirates he had saved also volunteered to help, and before long, all four gathered in front of the tavern.
With a hushed voice, Zhang Heng pulled everyone together.
“Well, so this is the plan. That Jacob guy will definitely find ways to determine how much the bag of pearls can fetch before he charges the buyers. To do that, he will need to find an appraiser…”
“Wait, you said that the pearls have been lost since morning. What if he’s already found someone to appraise them?” asked Marvin while raising his hand.
“The appraisers on the island are very busy. He would need to make an appointment at least half a day in advance. Of course, if you’re willing to pay more and offer them a price they can’t refuse, they would even blow you on the spot. But trust me, someone who has been poor their whole life, getting by on theft, won’t be able to afford such a large sum of money,” one of the pirates named Hilford explained.
Being a descendent of the first wave of immigrants, and spent his entire youth in Nassau, he was very familiar with the place.
“If that’s the case, then anyone on the list could be the one. But there’s only four of us. There’s simply not enough of us to keep an eye on every one of them.”
“Forget about the others. We just need to focus on the two appraisers who are having a holiday at home,” replied Zhang Heng after mulling over the facts.
“If that guy has any brains on him, he probably knows that someone might try to trace him through the appraisers. The best option is not to meet the appraisers at a rendezvous point but to pay them a visit. Even appraisers on holiday would find it difficult to refuse money that delivers itself to their doorstep.”
“I think this idea will work,” another pirate piped up.
Seeing that no were no objections, the four split up into two pairs, each going their way to the residences of the two appraisers.
Zhang Heng paired up with Marvin, and their target was a twenty-nine-year-old named guy called Randall. He was young for an appraiser but had managed to build quite a reputation for himself, being excellent at accurately determining the value of all sorts of things. Each day, there was always an appointment after appointment. That said, he made sure to spare a day each week for his family. He lived right next to the Nassau market, one of the most prosperous areas in the city.
Zhang Heng and Marvin squatted under a shed with a grass roof opposite his residence, casually laying down conches and pretended to sell them. Marvin peeked out from the shed. He looked at the sun in the sky and tugged on Zhang Heng’s shirt. Whispering in a cautious voice, he said, “Err, if a fight breaks out later…”
“Don’t worry, if that happens, I will take care of it. You can stay away and watch by the side.”
Marvin looked embarrassed. “I was just about to ask how I might be of assistance…”
“That guy is more than likely armed. Going up against him will be your own suicide. Believe me, you staying here is the biggest help you can give me,” Zhang Heng answered.
Marvin was indeed aware that his combat skills were terrible, but at the blunt comment, his face had turned a beet red.
Zhang Heng quickly added, “Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging your own weakness is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Marvin’s eyes lit up at the remark, remembering that his cowardly performance during a previous battle turned him into the laughing stock among the ship’s crew. Upon hearing Zhang Heng’s kind words, he felt as if he had found his confidant.
The two chatted away, and time passed quickly.
At noon, Randall received two guests, both arriving separately. One was the island’s black market merchant, and the other was Randall’s sister-in-law. Clearly, neither was Jacob and as the sun was beginning to set, the deadline loomed closer. Yet there was no progress. There was no news from Hilford, either.
Soon, Zhang Heng found himself doubting his own judgment.
Could it be that the Jacob guy wasn’t as smart as he thought him to be? Did he make an appointment with one of the three appraisers who were working? Or perhaps was he right, but the thief was worried that he would be apprehended, waiting until things settled before selling the pearls? If that was the case, there would be no way he could catch the target before the designated time.
No, that couldn’t be right. Based on that guy’s financial situation, he could not afford to wait that long. The sooner he got rid of the stolen goods, the sooner he could get away with it. Even if the owner of the missing pearls were to find him, there was nothing he could do.
As Zhang Heng was beginning to be clouded by doubt, he saw Randall’s sister-in-law walking out of the house with a basket, cautiously scanning her surroundings like a little mouse before hurriedly heading towards the other side of the road.
At that moment, Zhang Heng knew he had to make a choice. In fact, thinking about the other possibilities now was a senseless act. If he was wrong, he would have no time left to correct his mistake. Rather than cracking his head over whether he made the right call, it would be better to stick to his initial plan and see it through, all the way to the end.
Zhang Heng removed a dagger and a pistol from under the straw mat, telling Marvin, “Take care of the stall. If after I’m gone, and someone suspicious appears, go find the others.”
Marvin caught on quickly. “So… you think that the cunning dude is afraid to show himself but instead commissioned Randall’s sister-in-law to bring the pearls to her brother-in-law to be appraised?”
“I don’t know. So far, that seems like the most plausible deduction. Also, this is the only way I can find the pearls before sunset.”
After that, Zhang Heng got up and begun tailing the young woman from a distance.
Though unable to ascertain the situation even after following Randall’s sister-in-law for some distance, Zhang Heng was convinced he was right. The woman was obviously more vigilant than the average pedestrian, pausing every now and then, turning around and looking out with caution. With his excellent observational skills, Zhang Heng did not have to follow her too closely and keeping a good distance, he kept his cover from being blown.
Meanwhile, Zhang Heng also considered the possibility of attacking the person. However, if he was mistaken, or whatever she carried was not the bag of pearls he was looking for, it would become a massive headache for him.
If his intelligence was right though, then his opponent was probably just a lowlife in the city – there was nothing for him to worry about when it came to combat.
Still, the safest option was to wait until the two met and made the exchange.