Chapter 22

The note Robert Down previously pinned to the beach house door, but found no one home at the time, contained the phone number of the O'Reilly farm. Dickson left a message with Mrs. O'Reilly and gave her his own cell number.

Meanwhile, the boys cooked dinner of meatballs, eggs and chips, the latter responsibility given to Mick if he were to hone his new culinary skill.

The meatballs--which were Dickson's forte--consisted of mince meat, flavored with a packet of powered chicken soup, chopped onion, celery and carrot, then shaped and coated in breadcrumbs ready for the griddle.

"We still know very little about why Horace was attacked in Auckland," Mick said as he peeled the potatoes.

"Except that the cops are treating it as attempted murder."

"Yeah, but who was the attempter?"

"Ian Ajit was nearby at the time. Maybe we should talk to him. Come to think of it, we should check the whereabouts of our other `suspects' as well."

"What if one of them hired a hit man?"

"Yeah, right, at ten or twenty thousands bucks? None of them has that kinda dough."

"Doris has."

"You're getting carried away, my dear Watson."

"What about Simon Swan? He's not short of a quid."

"I checked--he was on a film shoot in Papua, New Guinea."

"You checked? Why him?"

"Because he has legitimate cause as a cameraman to travel overseas at short notice--an almost perfect alibi."

"And the others?"

"No, I don't have a credible reason to phone them out of the blue, Mick. We'll need to be more discreet. We can't afford to raise any suspicion."

"This is so damn crazy, Dicko, who ever heard of a couple of teen surfers getting involved in this whole cloak and dagger bullshit?"

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant."

"Robert Louis Stevenson."

"Smarty pants."

"I'm not dumb you know."

Next morning, Dickson and Paul had their usual sign chat by the roadside, which reminded the blond of his little friend's upcoming birthday. A short time later, he checked e-Bay on line.

Mick arrived and went straight to the computer room: "Whatcha doin', Dicko?"

"Looking for a birthday present for Paul--there's a junior used board for sale at Diamond Beach--fifty bucks--that's 25 each."


"Don't you wanna go halves?"

At about midday, the unmistakable clatter of a muffler-free Harley made its presence felt as well as heard in the backyard of the beach house. Robert Down read the note pinned to the back door and took the invitation to grab a beer from the fridge and wander through the hall to the front verandah where he sat and watched the surfers.

A few minutes later, Dickson spotted the guest and called Mick to return to the beach. As they showered under the hose, Robert shook his head and belly laughed. "Are we all from the same planet? You guys couldn't even frighten the crap out of a fly!"

"Is that why you choose the bikie lifestyle?"

"Respect, man, respect is what I get every time I walk into a place. People are too afraid to look me in the eye."

"To each his own, I guess."

"This is quite a place you have here, Dickson. No cows, though, and no Harleys, only those pocket rockets that sound like a bloody whipper snipper. Horace tells me he's offered you a deal to buy this place."

"Not quite buy--he wants to build apartments."

"Whatever. Watch him, guys, he can be a real bastard in business."

"How so?" Dickson asked as he towelled.

"That's kinda personal, mate, a private matter between him and me."

"I thought you were good mates."

"We were."

"And now?"

"Let's just say we've got a problem that needs sorting out, otherwise I'll sort him out."

"How do you mean?"

"Nobody, not even him, messes with me. That Winchester ain't just for decoration, you know. Trust me, I'll use it. Oh, yeah," the leather-clad beard reiterated, "you better believe it, I'll use the fucking thing if I need to, don't you worry about that."

"Sounds pretty serious. Do you have a license for that thing?"

"Yeah--it's called a trigger. The cops know I've got it but we have an arrangement--they don't confiscate it and I don't shoot `em." Robert burst into a belly laugh once more. "See what I mean about respect, mate? Nobody argues with Bob Down."

"Sounds to me like Horace has no choice but to settle the dispute amicably."

"He's too stubborn to listen. Anyway, guys, I didn't come here to talk about all that dumb shit. I brought three steaks with me--T-bones. You supply the liquid refreshments. Let's party!"

As the steaks sizzled on the backyard barbecue, Dickson and Mick listened intently to the stories Bob told of his days with the Rebels. "One time, I went home to visit my mom. I'd been outback living with Aborigines for a couple of months. I didn't wash or shave all that time. So, when I turned up at my mom's house she didn't recognize me. `You're not my son!' she bellowed. `Piss off or I'll call the police!' It took me forever to convince her that I was who I said I was, hahaha!"

"You must have had some hair-raising experiences."

"With the gang? Whoa yeah, there was one time I'll never forget. We were riding in formation along the freeway from Canberra to Sydney. A young guy driving a car behind us decided to show off to his girlfriend. He managed to get the car into the middle of the pack--thought he was part of the gang, the fuckwit. So we closed in on him and forced him off to the side of the road. Then we grabbed our iron bars and whatever else we could get our hands on and smashed the crap out of every panel and broke all the windows. But what I'll never forget was the piercing screams--the girl was hysterical, absolutely terrified--I've never heard anything so... so incredibly chilling. Yeah, no way I could ever forget that. It makes my blood curdle even now just to think about it."

"Did they report the incident?"

"No. Would you?"

The T-bones were served with salad and washed down with beer. Not surprisingly, the conversation graduated to the topic of motor cycles. "A Harley stamps you as a man," Bob explained with a mouthful of steak. "When you're astride a Harley, you're somebody. They turn heads; people notice you. It's like the difference between riding a stallion and a mule. You know?--like a Mack truck and a rickshaw. I don't understand why you guys ride those rice farts."

"Cheap transport."

"Transport? Ha! Why not a bicycle? That's even cheaper," he laughed. "Nah, Harley's rule, man."

"Can you imagine Mike and me riding Harleys?"

Bob took a few moments to contemplate his reply. "Funny you should ask that--no, I can't--you're the wrong type."

"Why is that?"

"Surfers don't ride Harleys."

"I rest my case."

"Case? What case?"

"Never mind--tell me, is Doris Fink aware of the problem between you and Horace?"

"Not unless he said something to her. Why?"

"Just curious."

"Horace never discusses business with that bitch. Not even his trips interstate or overseas."

"He said he's trying to market his perfume."

"Ha! Yeah, right--believe that and you'll believe anything. Hahaha! Perfume? I guess he's gotta tell that bitch something to keep her quiet. The less she knows the better he likes it. If she knew that he's a..." Bob's voice trailed off. "Anyway, what's for dessert?"

"I can whip up a batch of scones."

"Ha! Scones? No wonder you don't ride a Harley. Mrs. O'Reilly makes awesome scones, with brandied cream. You know how to make brandied cream?"

"Doesn't the brandy curdle the cream?"

"You do the scones and I'll do the cream."

When the scones were ready for a hot oven, Dickson and Mick watched Bob whip some thick cream and icing sugar in a bowl. When it formed soft peaks, he gradually folded in the brandy, using a wooden spoon. "And that's it," he said, "too easy!"

The feast was devoured on the front verandah accompanied by roast coffee and cream. "That's a pretty tricky scone recipe you use," Bob continued. "Mrs. O'Reilly cheats and uses a packet mix."

"It's my gran's recipe--I still have her old cookbooks such as the Country Women's Association's Coronation Cookbook. It was published the same year as Queen Elizabeth was crowned... 1953."

"I've crowned a few blokes in my time," Bob laughed, "but they didn't hang around as long as the Queen has." The former bikie contemplated the view for a moment or two. "You want some free advice, mate? Don't sell this house. Did I tell you I'm trying to buy the O'Reilly farm? The old buggers are dilly dallying, dammit, they're too old to run the joint anyway. I dunno what their problem is--I even offered them the house to live in for the rest of their lives, rent free."

"Sounds familiar. That's pretty close to the deal Horace offered me."

"There's a difference, mate; I'm trustworthy and he ain't."

"If that's the case--and don't get me wrong, Bob, I don't doubt you--what's the problem Horace has with you?"

"Loose lips sink ships, Dickson, besides I don't want you blokes blabbing. Mind you, it would be your last blab, hahaha! You got a Bible here?"

"My gran's."

"Go get it."

Dickson returned with the Bible and both he and Mick followed their guest's request to swear an oath of secrecy. Then Bob revealed the detail of his arrangement with Horace and the collapse of both deals.

"Why are you telling us this?"

"You asked. Besides, I'd like your opinion. As far as I know, no one else knows about this outside of Horace and me. You guys might ride sewing machines and have clean fingernails and beardless faces but I get the impression that you're not as dumb as you look."

"The truth? You should not gave gambled the 20 thousand."

"Too late now, mate. Besides, I reckon I can win it back--maybe even double the money."

"Or lose the lot."

"You're missing the point, Dickson. If I repay the remaining 80 thou I'll have nothing left, and no chance of repaying the 20, let alone buying the farm. I know how to make that place work. At the moment, the O'Reillys can't be bothered, they've lost interest. I could turn that place into a very profitable business but Horace doesn't understand that. And he's in no mood to listen to reason. That's why I lost my block and gambled the money. I was mad as hell. So, wise guys, what would you do if you were in my Harley boots?"