Chapter 191 – Artifact Match (1)
The date with Silvia was awkward and great at the same time.
She said she had liked listening to Kpop and watching Korean dramas, and she always wanted to eat ganjang gejang and jajangmyeon. She was now satisfied to finally try it.
Of course, she left some of her ganjang gejang.
As she had said, Mat Vellin called Haejin and then came to Korea a day after.
Haejin thought about sending someone to the airport to greet him, but he didn’t want to disturb him while he met Silvia, so he dismissed the idea. Next, Mat showed up at Haejin’s museum two days after his arrival.
“It’s been a long time.”
“Yes, and you look even better now,” Haejin replied.
Mat Vellin now looked somewhat different.
Before, he seemed a strong and tough man, but now, he was smiling warmly. It almost felt strange to Haejin.
“Yes, it’s because I’ve been eating and sleeping well.”
“I hope your flight was comfortable.”
“Of course, it was,” Mat replied.
“Would it be okay to talk here?” Haejin asked because he didn’t know why he was here yet, but Mat smiled.
“Yes, I am here as the vice director of Louvre Abu Dhabi.”
At this, Eunhae looked at Haejin with questions.
She was asking if there was something else, but Haejin just shrugged his shoulders and took Mat to the sofa.
“Okay then, please let us sit and talk.”
Mat then sat down on the sofa, took out a file, and put it on the table.
“Actually, I came here because I needed to ask you a favor. Of course, there was another reason… but I will not talk about that now.”
“Oh, okay,” Haejin replied while opening the file and read the document inside. Surprisingly, it was a plan for investment in the UAE of Korean companies.
“What is this?” Haejin then asked.
Mat explained, “There has been an active discussion about investment between the two countries after the president of Korea visited the UAE a while ago. So, companies in Korea have been contacting us in all ways to get their business rights. One of those ways is through artifacts.”
“Artifacts? Do you mean bribe?” Haejin asked.
Mat couldn’t be asking Haejin to appraise the bribes the UAE had received. No, he couldn’t be…
Mat, however, confirmed, “Yes. Accurately speaking, it is bribery. However, if you want to do business in the UAE, you must show some respect. That is how things work.”
Mat then continued, “Two Korean consortiums have bid for the construction of a new city in the UAE. Of course, their bidding prices are secret, and the outcome of the competition will not be announced.”
“The authorities of the UAE do not really care about which consortium gets to win. They believe in the Korean technology that has built a number of cities already, so as long as the price is reasonable, it is fine. Plus, we have examined all the documents of both consortiums sent us, and we concluded they would both do fine. And as their bidding prices were similar, we were going to select Yuseong-SG Consortium as its bidding price was a little lower, but then… it got a little complicated.”
He drank some water and continued.
“The person who is in charge of the development of the new city of Tariff is Prince Abdula al Mohammed Abu Dhabi. He is also the actual owner of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Hwajin-Nomura Consortium presented him van Gogh’s painting.”
Mat continued to explain, “His Highness thought over it and is still thinking now. If they had tried to bribe him with money, he would have snorted and said no, but it is not easy for His Highness to refuse a painting that is one of a kind. That is why they gave him the painting.”
“So, there was a reason why you came all this way,” Haejin commented.
Mat just smiled instead of saying anything.
Eunhae, who had been sitting next to Haejin, asked, “But His Highness hasn’t seen the painting yet. Does it qualify as a bribe?”
“We only got photos of the painting. Once it gets to Abu Dhabi on the ship, it can never return,” Mat replied.
Eunhae then said, “Hmm… then isn’t it insulting to His Highness? They sent him some photos and said we would send the painting after you choose us. It’s not like they’re negotiating over a hostage…”
That question was extremely reasonable.
Mat nodded and answered.
“You are right, but there is a missing link in it. They said they were sending the photos first because His Highness might not want it. They would send it immediately if His Highness wants it, and it is only to show respect to him. It also has nothing to do with the bidding.”
That strategy was truly flawless.
“Wow, they are good talkers.”
Eunhae had to admit it and shook her head.
Mat continued, “So, this is how the situation is. His Highness cannot give up on the painting, but if he does not choose Hwajin-Nomura consortium, after taking it, it would be diminishing his own honor. So, if he takes the painting, he must select Hwajin-Nomura consortium, but if the painting turns out to be fake, it would be an even bigger problem. It might become a diplomatic problem.”
“I can understand that. But they must know it, too. Would they try to send a painting with problems?”
Mat grimly shook his head, “But things are going strange these days. Forgeries good enough to fool most appraisers are going around. This is not just because we are doubting them, but because we must get rid of any seed of the problem. Prince Sahmadi said so, and Prince Mohammed has accepted his advice.”
“Hmm… I see. Then I should go with you to appraise, right?” Haejin asked.
“It’s 11 a.m. tomorrow, at Baekje Hotel. I will send you the room number through a text,” Mat replied.
“Oh, and as for the fee…”
Mat was about to stand up, but then he smiled playfully and asked, “Prince Sahmadi said you will appraise for him for free forever. Should I ask again?”
“Uh… no. You are right. Of course, I should help with this. It’s about a good relationship between the two countries…”
Prince Sahmadie wasn’t trying to not pay Haejin because he was stingy.
Haejin thought about how he must have been feeling about not being able to see his daughter’s face ever again, and he wanted to punch his own mouth for mentioning the fee.
After Mat left, Haejin was making excuses to Eunhae about why he wasn’t receiving his fee when someone suddenly knocked on the door.
“Sir, a woman named Song Yaerin has come. What should I do?”
“Yaerin?” Eunhae immediately frowned and she raised her voice.
Now, Haejin knew well how things were between them, so he asked instead, “Why is she here?”
“She wants to see you, sir.”
Eunhae frowned even harder. Haejin thought about not meeting Yaerin because of it, but then, they heard Yaerin yelling from far away.
“Mr. Park Haejin! Are you going to keep having me standing here!”
Her voice rang through the entire building. Eunhae was now mad as well. She stood up while saying, “How dare she yell in someone else’s museum? Doesn’t she know it’s rude?”
Haejin realized he was about to see the two of them fight and quickly told the staff, “Tell her to come in, quickly. If we are going to fight her, we should do it in private. We cannot fight out there!”
“But she should have come in quietly! She is yelling like that!” Eunhae pouted.
Well, even though Eunhae was always not happy to see Yaerin, she had never made her leave.
Once the door opened, Yaerin came in and sat down next to Haejin while saying, “Oh, you are both here. Nice to meet you, it’s been a long time.”
Additionally, even though she was wearing a short skirt, she still crossed her legs. Haejin then looked away while Eunhae frowned even harder.
“Hey, don’t frown like that. I thought we have made up.”
“We haven’t… you do know it doesn’t cost you any money to let us know before you come, right?” Eunhae asked.
“But you would have told me to not come if I had! You should also thank me. I came here right away instead of calling Mr. Haejin to meet in private because I cared about you.” Yaerin snapped then turned to Haejin, “I could have asked you to meet in private, but I came here because I needed to meet the appraiser of this museum.”
“So, you want to officially give me a case?” Eunhae asked.
Yaerin confirmed, “Yes. So, stop frowning, okay?”
Eunhae felt a little sorry. She relaxed and stood up.
“Would you like something to drink?”
“Iced green tea.”
After they calmed down like that, Yaerin drank her iced green tea and started to talk.
“This matter is so complicated that I don’t know where to start. I’ll just start at the beginning, so please, hear till the end of it.”
Eunhae tried to say something, but Yaerin glared at her and continued.
“Yuseong has been trying hard to win that new city development business in the Arab Emirates since last year.
“But two days ago, Mat Vellin, the vice director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, came to Korea…”
However, what she said was exactly what Mat had just told them.
Eunhae looked at Haejin.
“What is it?” Yaerin asked.
Haejin then explained, “We know how it’s going. Is it Yuseong-SG consortium? You’re talking about that, right?”
Yaerin was surprised, “Huh? How do you know?”
“Hmm… we know enough about it, so get to your point.”
“No, how you know about this also matters. Did Hwajin tell you?” Yaerin asked.
“Not Hwajin. Mat Vellin was just here.”
Yaerin was so shocked that she jumped to her feet.
“What? Mat Vellin was here?”
Some cold green tea fell on her legs, but she just brushed it off and asked again, “How do you know him?”
“I cannot tell you that. So, what do you want from me?”
Yaerin bit her lips. She didn’t answer Haejin’s question and thought hard for some time.
After a few minutes, she finally made up her mind and started speaking.
“Hwajin-Nomura consortium has promised to bribe the prince, and Mat Vellin is here to appraise it. There isn’t much we can do about it. We can only give them something much better than what Hwajin-Nomura consortium has prepared…”
“You can’t be asking me to find that for you, right?” Haejin asked.
“Of course not. I know you rummaged through Harvard University’s storage. You worked hard to get the Henderson Collection back. I saw it on the news. So…”
But then, Eunhae frowned and raised her voice, “What, are you asking him to rummage through the Haevici Gallery’s storage?”
Yaerin looked at Haejin. That was a silent confirmation.
“I’m sorry, but no matter how much you pay me, I cannot choose an artifact from you,” Haejin replied.
“Why? Hwajin-Nomura isn’t even a consortium of Korean companies…”
Haejin then explained, “Apart from that, you are not thinking about why Mat came here. He has asked me to appraise their artifacts for him. So, if I choose an artifact for you, it wouldn’t be a fair game.”
Yaerin was surprised again. She thought about it and asked, “Okay. Then answer me one question, and I’ll leave. What artifact does Hwajin-Nomura have?”
“I don’t know for sure.”
Haejin wasn’t going to tell her, but after finding out that the consortium wasn’t a joint venture of Korean companies, he blurted out the artist’s name.
“It’s van Gogh’s painting.”
“Haha, van Gogh’s painting? Okay.”
Yaerin gave a hollow smile and stood up.
Haejin suddenly wondered something, “It is van Gogh’s painting… do you think you can win?”
“I thought I would definitely win with your help… but I have no choice. I must at least try.”