One particular aspect of the assault on Horace Fink in Auckland troubled Dickson. As he and Mick sat down to dinner he asked his mate and partner why Horace didn't see his attacker or have any clue to his or her identity. "And what the hell was a stranger doing in his hotel room in the first place?"
"Maybe it wasn't a stranger."
"It puzzles me why Horace has not given police one single clue about the attack."
"Maybe he prefers not to."
"You're Sherlock and I'm Watson, remember?"
"He said it was a business trip. I wonder if Doris has a list of his appointments. No, that doesn't add up--if she had, she would have given the list to police but, as she said, the investigation is at a dead end." Dickson took a forkful of barramundi, chewed and swallowed while deep in thought, and then added: "Business trip? What if that's just an excuse for something else?"
"I don't know. But don't you think it's strange that he's always going on business trips but has no business other than investments in stocks and shares? He's left behind a trail of disappointed hopefuls. He promises the world and delivers nothing. Perhaps it's just a ploy to make Doris think he's actively pursuing opportunities..."
"Which are not necessarily related to business?"
"Precisely, my dear Watson. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"That he's a closet gay on the prowl? But that's just a hunch, mate, I'm not sure why that occurred to me--there's nothing so far to indicate his sexual preference, not even the photos of Cody."
"We need to be careful here," Mick, "we don't want to lose the plot. All the people we've spoken to thus far have not expressed any dislike of Horace for reasons related to sexuality; it's all to do with money."
"What do you expect them to say? That they're pissed at Horace because he knocked them back when they got a bit too cosy for comfort? Nobody's gonna admit that, especially not to the likes of you and me."
"What are you saying? That whatever motive a potential murderer might have need not necessarily relate to money or business issues?"
"Go figure, Dicko. Besides, Tony wants to marry Doris, and that Vodkinski dude is still pissed about Doris giving him the flick."
"Why does this detective business have to be so damn complicated?"
At 7, the boys watched the television news and learned of the massacre at Virginia Tech; 33 shot dead and 15 injured by a gunman who turned the gun on himself after the senseless shooting. "The right to bear arms," was Dickson's subdued comment as he watched horrifying vision of the mayhem. "I wonder what the American public thinks about the first amendment right now."
"Amendment. The first is free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and that kinda stuff. The right to bear arms is the second."
"What makes you so sure?"
"I got a mate in Ohio."
"You never mentioned that before. Who?"
"Jason Dean...he knows everything."
"Does he know about the third amendment?"
"Mick Morris is a smartass."
"Hahaha! Anyway, the killer was obviously mentally deranged."
"That didn't stop him from exercising his right to bear arms."
"What about Bob Down? He owns a Winchester."
"If the cops found out about it he'd be fined and maybe even jailed... unless he's got a license, which I doubt."
"But Bob's not the type to go on a bloody rampage."
"How can you know that? Martin Bryant didn't look the type to massacre 35 people at Port Arthur in '96. Actually, when you think about it, if we're supposed to be honest, law-abiding citizens we should inform the authorities of Bob's rifle."
"I'll leave that to you, Dicko."
"Ditto, Mick. Weird, huh? The old Aussie tradition of never dobbing in a mate. I think Bob's aware of that, which is why he doesn't mind who knows about the Winchester, so long as it's not the cops."
"The African lion and the wild cat look so much alike, yet they are different. An ancient African theory explains it this way. The same lioness gives birth to numerous cubs some of which are truly lions at heart and some of which are not. How does the mother lion know which is which? Months after the birth of the cubs, just before they are weaned, the mother lion leaves the den and then, in an unsuspecting moment, she jumps into the den with a thundering roar as if she was an enemy attacking the cubs. Some of the cubs stand up and fight back the presumed enemy while others flee the den with their tails between their legs. The cubs that hold their ground to face the danger prove themselves to be real lions. Those that run away prove to be mere wild cats, false lions.
"Ah! I see one of my dear flock dozing during my sermon. Never mind, I forgive you as the good Lord forgives me--besides, you can go to my web site later."
Mass was followed by the tea ceremony in the presbytery. "Shorts and flip flops again, I see," the Rev Tom Samuels said as he spooned loose tea into the warmed silver pot. "Do you lads ever wear anything else?"
"Sometimes nothing at all," Mick joked, and received an elbow from Dickson.
"That could vastly improve the general attendance in church on Sundays," Tom smiled. "I'll see what I can do about appointing you as altar boys."
"Come to think of it," Dickson laughed, "why aren't there altar girls?"
"For the same reason there are boy choirs--I'll leave it to you lads to figure that one out for yourselves lest I be struck by lightning before I finish pouring the tea. Butterscotch fingers anyone? And it's okay to dunk them in your tea when I'm not looking. I suppose you're aware of that terrible shooting massacre in Virginia."
"How does religion explain that kind of senseless tragedy?" Dickson asked as Tom seated his more-than-ample butt at the table.
"Explain? Explain what? Some things are inexplicable my young friend. There is no logic to such a tragedy, at least none that humans understand. If you endeavor to explain various mysteries of life, you risk getting into the area of superstition, such as primitive cultures did when they worshipped false gods like the sun and the moon. There are some things we need to accept because they exist and not for any other reason. Albert Einstein said that joy in looking and comprehending is the greatest of all Nature's gifts. But, I ask you, how much of what Einstein comprehended represents all that remains to be comprehended?"
"I don't get it, Tom, if God is all powerful why does he allow these terrible things to occur?"
"The operative word in your question, Dickson, is `allow'. How do you know that God `allows' these things to occur?"
"I think I understand what you're saying, Rev, but your sermon today was about cubs proving whether or not they are true lions or just wild cats. With respect, I can't help thinking that religion runs away from the search for truth as well as reasonable explanations for the things we are yet to comprehend. You know, it's like religion says, `Oh, well, that's the way it is and God knows best, so lets all carry on with our prayers and whatever'."
"You're a thinker, Dickson, and I have no quarrel with that. But the road you have thus far traveled is short by comparison to the one you will ultimately travel. By all means ask questions, by all means search for truth and meaning. I have every confidence in you boys--every confidence. In the meantime, what's the latest with Horace Fink?"
Dickson and Mick took turns to bring Tom up to speed with what they knew about the case so far. "What we can't figure is why Horace seems to be unwilling to give police any meaningful information that might help the investigation. And please don't say Horace works in mysterious ways!"
Dickson's joke tickled the old man. "You also have a wicked sense of humor, my friend, and I have no quarrel with that either. However, mystery is the condiment of life--without it, life would be boring. Now tell me this, are you saying that Horace may have something to hide? That's a possibility, of course; however I have no idea of what it might be."
"Do you know anything about his business trips?"
"Only that they never result in any business. More tea?"
"Do you find that curious?"
"Obviously you do, Dickson." The group paused to watch the golden brown liquid fill each of the porcelain cups before Tom continued. "Yes, I admit, it is curious, but keep in mind what curiosity did to Sylvester. Besides, it's none of our business."
"How can you say that with certainty?"
On the way home, Dickson and Mick called into Aunt Flo's place where they once again searched for the missing wedding ring, albeit without success. "I've made a list of all the places it could be," she explained. "It must be here somewhere."
"How much does it cost to hire a bulldozer for the day?" Mick joked, then realized his audience was not amused. "What we really need is a list of the places we've missed so far in our search."
"We've searched every square millimeter of this place," Dickson insisted.
"If we had," Flo said smugly, "we'd have found the ring."
The boys stopped at the market to get provisions for the afternoon barbecue; sausages, steaks, eggs, bread rolls, salad and drinks. While there, they met Robert Down. "I've just come from your place," he said, "but you weren't there. I left a note pinned to your back door."
"We were at church."
"Church? With the Bishop? Did he mention me? He's always at me for not going to Mass, but... well, I get weird looks from the rest of the congregation, if you know what I mean, and the Harley kinda looks out of place in the carpark. Anyway, you blokes don't look like churchies--could have fooled me. I thought all surfies were into sex, drugs and rock `n' roll."
"We're not churchies," Dickson explained, "at least, not regular. We like Tom and enjoy a bit of a chat. He's a top bloke ... for a priest. By the way, have you met Doris?"
"Doris Fink? No, not really. I get the feeling she doesn't like me--I'm a bit too downmarket and scruffy for her tastes."
Bob's comment caused Dickson to dismiss his idea to invite the biker to the barbecue. "That's too bad, considering your friendship with Horace. He's back in Oz, by the way... in Concord hospital for observation. Doris expects him home by about mid week. Can I ask you something, Bob? Do you know much about Horace's business trips?"
"Sorry, I didn't mean to pry. Listen, mate, Mick and I have a few things to do this afternoon. Maybe you can call around another day. We'd like to see you again."
"You sure I won't upset the neighbors?"
"What neighbors? There aren't any."