At the local video store the boys hired a couple of movies for the night: Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart.
"What's the point of whodunits when we already know who dun it?" Mick asked as he threw two packs of snacks into the bag containing the DVDs.
"We can learn something from Bogart and Nicholson, that's the point."
"This is Old Bar, mate, not Hong Kong or Casablanca or L.A."
"Thank Christ for that."
The Maltese Falcon had only just begun when Dickson hit the pause button to answer his cell phone. It was Cody. "Hey, I just checked the Fink house to make sure everything was okay, and I discovered something."
"Are you sure you should be telling me this?"
"It's a CD with nudie pics of me, taken from an open window, skinny dipping in their pool."
"So? Get real, Cody, if you insist on waving that thing around in the breeze, you must expect people to be curious."
"What do you mean?"
"Doris knows bugger all about digital stuff and computers."
"Maybe Horace wants to blackmail you," Dickson laughed.
"What--for having a schlong bigger than his?"
"How do you know?"
"Just a guess."
"So, what are you going to do about it? Tell Doris?"
"No, I'm not gonna do anything."
"So why tell me about it?"
"Are you mad at me, Dickson?"
"No, but I don't approve of you snooping about the Fink house, Cody. It's not right."
"So who's snooping? I was tidying a bunch of mags on Horace's desk when I saw the CD, and it had my name on it. What do you expect? I got curious, okay?"
"Did you put it back?"
"Not right away, I made a copy first. You wanna check it out? You know, as part of your intrepid investigation, hehehe."
"What kind of mags?"
"Business stuff--financial and shares--oh, and another one about bees."
"You know, bzzz bzzz, the little dudes that make honey. Horace was once interested in investing in Tony's farm, so I guess that explains that."
During the second movie, Dickson answered his phone again. This time it was Doris calling from Auckland. "Horace is on the improve," she said, "but he'll be in hospital for at least another week or so. I'm staying at a nearby hotel."
"Any updates from police investigators?"
"They've had the forensic people in the hotel room, but so far they haven't told me anything."
Dickson informed Doris of Mick's and his separate meetings that day with Barbara Thorne and Simon Swan. "That doesn't surprised me at all," she laughed. "Let me tell you something, Dickson, those people don't like Horace, but the sentiment is mutual and, I suggest, with good reason. Horace might have his faults, but he's not Robinson Crusoe."
"Is he aware of what's going on over there?"
"Oh, yes, and doesn't like it one bit; he wants to get back home. He complained today about the forensic people as if they were meddling in his private business."
"I don't understand."
"He just wants the whole mess forgotten, as if it never happened."
"How odd--most people would want the culprit brought to justice."
"Horace hates fuss--he's not terribly interested in revenge or retribution, and I suspect that's why he frustrates some people. When he wipes his hands of a particular project, he moves on--finished, gone, bye bye. One of his favorite words is `next!'."
"Do you think people like Thorne, Swan, Ajit and others take offense at Horace's apparent nonchalance?"
"Absolutely, but it's partly Horace's fault. He steam-rolls in full of enthusiasm and praise and then suddenly backs off, which leaves people stunned and resentful. There's no subtle or diplomatic exit, only an instant and unexplained retreat. Horace is very childlike in that respect; obsessed by something one minute and completely disinterested the next."
"By the way, do you know anything about Horace's digital camera?"
"Not really, it's one of those manual things with all kinds of lenses and whatever. I don't understand the thing at all."
Dickson ended the call and turned to Mick, "That's kinda weird," he said. "Doris reckons Horace loses interest in a project at the drop of a hat, so why would he keep a book about bees?"
"You've lost me. You wanna fill me in on that one?"
Dickson had only just finished his sign conversation with young Paul next morning, when Mick arrived on his bike. "Did you stop by Cody's house?" the blond asked.
"You got the CD?"
"Yep. And that little errand just cost you breakfast. What's on the menu?"
When the boys studied the digital photos, they were puzzled by some of the shots that showed Cody out of focus as if he were not the primary subject. "He's not a very good photographer," Mick commented.
"That depends on what he was shooting--notice the backgrounds are in focus. Maybe he was photographing something else and Cody got in the way."
"The background is bland, just houses and roads and a few trees. Besides, Cody's name is written on the CD. I reckon Horace wouldn't know an f-stop from a Vegemite sandwich."
Over breakfast of sausage and scrambled egg, the sleuths discussed the bee component of the mystery but without reaching any particular conclusion. "I reckon it's a furphy," Mick deduced. "We're starting to place relevance on aspects of the case that aren't relevant at all."
"Everything is relevant until proven otherwise, Mr. Morris. Meanwhile, if or when Horace makes an offer on this house, we know what to expect."
"You're not considering selling it, are you? Your gran would turn in her grave."
"No, it's not for sale, but I figure any negotiations with Fink face to face might reveal something--something about him. It's our chance to get to know him a little better."
"Our chance? My name is not on the deed in case you've forgotten."
"You're my financial advisor."
The receptionist at Goldstein, Nicholls and Blogg, Solicitors, greeted Dickson and Mick. "I phoned earlier," Dickson explained. "Dickson Bottoms."
"You must be Bottoms," the receptionist assumed as she looked at Mick. "Take a seat--Mr. Goldstein will be with you shortly."
"This Readers Digest is three years old," Dickson noted as he perused the magazine rack. "And these chairs look like they came from an op shop."
"Now you know why Goldstein drives the latest Merc."
A thin, completely bald man wearing a pin-striped suit and gold-rimmed bi-focals with thick lenses appeared in the hallway. "Mr. Bottoms? Please come into my office."
The room resembled a mini-library, with leather-bound, gold-embossed books lining large floor-to-ceiling shelves. Goldstein's solid-timber desk was some sort of expensive antique and his chair, trimmed with polished oak, was upholstered in buttoned green leather. The twin guest chairs, also upholstered in green, but plain vinyl, were nowhere near as ostentatious, and bordered on insult. "My name is Abraham but most people call me Abe. What can I do for you?"
"Horace Fink is a client of yours, Mr... uh, Abe. He made an offer to buy my property, the old weatherboard house on the beach north of Old Bar."
"Oh? That's news to me."
"We met him at the airport before he flew to New Zealand. That's where he made the offer. It was non-specific, just a general expression of interest."
"Not so general," Mick added.
"And how do I fit into all of this?"
"Mr. Fink has a reputation for reneging on deals. I'd like your advice."
"You'll appreciate, of course, that I cannot discuss Mr. Fink's private affairs without compromising client/lawyer trust. However, given your tender years and lack of experience in these matters, perhaps I can give you some friendly advice. If you wish to sell your property--and, incidentally, I knew your grandmother quite well--I suggest you deal with an experienced agent to act on your behalf. Obviously, if I'm representing Mr. Fink, I can't represent you, nor can anyone else in this firm. As a friend of your grandmother, let me say this: she would be horrified if that house were to be sold. Nevertheless, it will do nobody any good if it stands there for the next thousands years. Your grandmother is no longer with us, so the decision to sell or not to sell is your responsibility, Mr. Bottoms, and I urge you to give it very serious consideration before you make any decision you might regret."
"Take that as you will, my boy."
"Thanks for your time, Mr. Gold--uh, Abe."
"My pleasure. By the way, may I ask what your friend's role is in this matter?"
"He's my financial advisor."
"I see--how interesting! I've never met a bean counter dressed in floral board shorts and flip flops before."
"Bean counter?" Mick complained as he tossed a leg over his Suzuki saddle and pressed the starter button. "I'm a private investigator!"
"That's the last thing Abe needs to hear, mate. Let's get some lunch."
The bikes crossed the Manning River over Taree's Martin Bridge and headed south along the highway to Tinonee, then east through lush green forested countryside back to the coast and Old bar where they purchased fresh bread rolls for lunch at home.
"I'm starving," Mick announced as he removed his helmet in the rear yard of the beach house.
"You're always starving. Don't your folks feed you properly?"
"They're contemplating buying a second fridge just for me."
"Where does it all go?"
"I could tell you, but you'd think I was boasting."
"I should learn not to ask certain questions."