48 Hours a Day

Chapter 506 - Show’s Over

Zhang Heng briefly treated his external injuries before returning to his seat at Queen’s Theatre. When he got there, the opera was already coming to an end.

Escamillo and Carmen walked into the crowd at the square outside the bullfighting arena with their heads up high. Carmen remained outside the ring as she watched the valiant Escamillio walking into it. It was around that time that the rowdy-looking Don Jose found her. He begged for reconciliation, but Carmen only remained indifferent. At the same time, loud cheers echoed in the arena.

Escamillo defeated the bull. Carmen was elated, proceeding to take off the ring that Don Jose gave her and threw it on the ground. She wanted to rush into the ring to share the joy with her lover, but in a shocking turn of events, the desperate Don Jose took out the dagger that he prepared to stab Carmen. When the bull had returned, and the arena cleared, only Carmen remained, lying in a pool of her own blood.

“I killed her, Carmen, my dear Carmen!” wailed Don Jose in agony as if the world had come to an end.

At this point, the opera finally ended.

Then all the play’s actors walked onto the stage. The lights came on, and the entire theater was filled with thunderous applause. There were no doubts here that the new play ‘Carmen’ was a runaway success in London.

Zhang Heng stood up as well, applauding and clapping along with the people around him.

After the performance was over, he headed backstage to congratulate Irene Adler.

Throngs of people formed lines to congratulate the beautiful songstress, and even the wife of the prime minister went backstage to give her best wishes personally. Since she had more than her enough of her share of action, Zhang Heng wasn’t inclined to squeeze in and join the fight to congratulate her. He simply stood there quietly, and only after the crowd had almost dispersed, did he approach Adler’s dressing table that was now like an overgrown greenhouse. There were so many flowers that she had to place them next to her dressing table. As for the other actors, they received all but a few.

“I now know how much Londoners adore you,” exclaimed Zhang Heng.

“Really? Pity that you’re not from London then. I saw you leave midway,” Adler replied with a sly smirk.

“Uh… my friend and I have something urgent to deal with.”

“Well, I can see how urgent the matter is.” Adler raised his eyebrows and pointed at Zhang Heng’s suit. “You look a little worse for wear, almost catching up to Don Jose’s persona if you

will.”

“Actually, I just visited the barber.”

“I see they haven’t the best service, considering the state you’re in. Mind telling me the name of the establishment? I’ll make sure to avoid it in the future,” Adler chuckled.

IIII

As a person who had read the original works, Zhang Heng would, of course, be wary of Irene Adler. That being said, he had to concede that Irene Adler was indeed a very, very, attractive woman. It was no wonder that the King of Bohemia could never forget her. The king was the one at fault. He abandoned Adler in the quest for more power, and after marrying a Scandinavian princess, it led to the photo incident. Judging by Holmes’s attitude toward the case, he was more inclined to take Adler’s side. Not to mention how he became rather disgusted by what the king had done.

That was why he only asked Adler’s picture as payment once the matter was over. At the same time, he refused to shake the king’s hand. Zhang Heng could probably understand Holmes’s appreciation for Irene Adler-she was indeed a brilliant and intriguing woman. Therefore, Zhang Heng decided to act as neutral as possible when dealing with her, careful not to be too elusive or zealous. Even a strong character like Sherlock Holmes did not always act alone. He had the Baker Street Irregulars and police officers that assisted him with his cases. He had friends from all manner of trades. If Zhang Heng wanted to compete with him, he would need his friends for help.

As one of the only four who had beaten Holmes, Irene Adler could just be an excellent candidate to aid Zhang Heng.

“Although you left the hallway, and I was a little mad at that, the very fact that you came back, in the end, makes me willing to forgive you. I’d like to also thank you for waiting outside to congratulate me. Though, I see you brought no flowers with you,” Adler battered her eyelids.

It was a long night for many. When Zhang Heng returned to 221B Baker Street, Holmes hadn’t gone to bed, fiddling instead with an Amazon blowgun in his room. Earlier, he barely survived the attack, but now it seemed his spirits had returned to him.

It was exactly as he said—the more difficult the problem, the more excited he would become. On the contrary, asking him to live an ordinary life was no different from murder. “Interesting, you did not send her home,” Sherlock observed, looking at Zhang Heng at the door.

“I don’t think we are close enough for that…” replied Zhang Heng, “…and don’t worry, my relationship with her is not what you think it

is.”

“Excellent. Otherwise, they would simply gain another ordinary man falling in love, but lose an excellent detective.”

Zhang Heng did not continue the topic. “Did you get anything useful from those barbers?” he asked Sherlock, not wanting to dwell on the Adler topic.

“I’m glad that you still remember our case, but unfortunately, as I guessed, they are not affiliated with Mr. M’s criminal gang. At least, I found out who beat us up in the theater tonight.”

“He beat you, but I beat him up for you. Thank you,” Zhang Heng corrected. “It doesn’t matter. Makes no difference to me. In short, that man is called Carlson. According to him, he works in a gun factory. I believe the two pieces of information they gave me are 80% false. He got to know the group of barbers when they drank together. As I said, Prussians in London stick together in a group. He had gone into the barbershop, frantically telling them that bad guys were in pursuit of him. Hence, the barbers worked together to fight you off.”

“Wait, so, they didn’t know that man very well. That would mean you got nothing useful from them…” Zhang Heng frowned.

“You’re right. But fortunately, I have fought him earlier, and I got something useful when he strangled me.”

“Mm?”

Holmes put down the blowgun in his hand.

“That man has extraordinary skills. They are simple yet practical. When he put me down, I could see that he was in the army before. And he is definitely Prussian. I believe I’ve mentioned it to you before. Other than that, he is also a gambler. I saw the watch on his right hand-it should be quite valuable, but it has some sort of ticket number on it. It is exactly what London pawnshops would usually do. They would use a needle to engrave the number on the back of the watch, much like tagging the item with a pricetag—this was done to avoid confusion. Typically challenging to spot with the naked eye, I managed to touch it when I was struggling. There are at least three numbers, which means that he has pawned this watch three times. He would repurchase it from the pawnbroker each time, indicating that he acquires a large amount of money once in a while. So, the question is, where did that money come from?” “Mr. M?”

“Yes, we will need to head to the casino tomorrow. I have a hunch we are very close to the mastermind behind the whole thing!” said Holmes.

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