Aunt Flo peeked through the Venetians when she heard the thunder of the Harley accompanied by the far less intimidating buzz of the Suzukis. "This is our friend Robert Down," Dickson explained as they entered Flo's villa, "he's here to help us search for the wedding ring."
"I'll whip up a batch of Anzac biscuits," Flo announced, "and make some tea." Then she noticed a metal box carried by Robert. "Is that a tool box?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. Where's the laundry?"
Within half an hour, everyone was seated at the kitchen table for afternoon tea. "Oops, hang on," Bob said, "there's something inside my biscuit--do you put coins in your cookies, Flo?"
"Coins? No! I don't understand--they're just ordinary Anzac biscuits."
Bob placed his thumb and forefinger between his lips, produced a small metal object from his mouth, and held it aloft. "Well, well, well, what do you know about that!"
"My ring! You found my ring! But... what on earth... where... how...?"
"I'll put your washing machine back together before I leave," the bearded guest smiled.
"You're an absolute angel, Mr. Down, well... in rather eccentric clothing, but an angel nonetheless. Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Then Flo, eyes brimming with joyful tears, took the ring, polished it with a paper napkin, and placed it on her wedding finger. "You've made me so very happy, Mr. Down. I can't begin to tell you just how happy." Then she thanked the boys for inviting Bob to join the search.
"I'm a ring expert," Bob explained and pointed to the silver jewellery that adorned his eyebrows, nose and ears. "And it was worth it just to meet the woman who makes such delicious cookies."
Soon enough, Dickson managed to steer the conversation around to Flo's hobby. "Any tips this week?" he asked.
"Number 10 in the fifth at Randwick on Wednesday--Harley Davidson--it's 5 to 1."
"There's a horse called Harley Davidson?"
"Yes, but don't you boys go putting your money on it. I've told you before, gambling is a dangerous game and, besides, it might lose."
"Your tips never lose."
"Well, rarely," she admitted with a smile, "but there's no such thing as a certainty in horse racing."
"Don't worry, Aunt Flo, I don't bet... you know that already."
"So why ask for the tip?"
"I follow them out of curiosity--just to see how accurate you are. So far, you're about 90% on the money."
"It's just my way of making ends meet, Dickson; a few dollars here and there, that's all, and no more."
"What's your system?" Bob asked.
"System? I don't have a system. A friend of mine knows someone who works in the industry--for a large stable. He apparently gets inside information. That's all I know--and all I want to know."
Once again, Bob ordered the boys to stay some distance behind as the trio headed back to the beach house. "I don't want those things anywhere near my Harley." When they arrived, Bob stayed for a beer before returning to the farm. "Five to one," he said as he settled into a canvas chair on the front verandah and popped a can of Fosters. "Twenty Gs on the nose, that's enough to pay Horace back and keep the rest for a deposit on the farm. Thanks a million, guys."
"For what? Mick and I are not recommending anything--the decision is all yours, mate. We take no responsibility whatsoever."
"Don't you see? This is some kinda sign... some kinda omen. Your aunt gets her ring back and she mentions a horse named Harley Davidson! That's more than coincidence, mate!" Bob tilted back his head and poured half the contents of the can down his throat. "This was meant to be, absolutely meant to be--it's a sign from the gods! Yes!"
As the sound of the V-twin faded into the distance, Dickson and Mick cleaned the barbecue and took a number of utensils back to the kitchen. "Wednesday," Mick said, "that's tomorrow. Do you still have this morning's paper?" Mick studied the midweek form. "Yep, five to one and barrier 2, 1600 meters; two wins and three seconds from its last five starts. Sounds pretty cool."
"Who's the jockey?"
"Darren Beadman. The race is at 3:05. Hey, Dicko, I got an idea."
Mick soon returned from shopping and placed various items in the fridge and appropriate cupboards as Dickson compiled a report for Doris. "You're not gonna mention Bob's secret, I hope," Mick commented as he checked the computer screen, "we swore on the Bible."
"Nope--but she needs to know so I gotta figure out a way. Did you put the bet on?"
"Yeppo, ten dollars on the nose--fixed odds--that should cover the cost of Paul's surfboard. Yippee!"
After a meal of home-made tacos, Mick volunteered to drop the report into Cody's house on the way home.
Next morning, before Mick arrived at the beach house, Dickson received a call from Doris. "You didn't mention the business between Horace and Robert Down," she said.
"You know about that? Bob made us swear not to tell anyone."
"Too late--I questioned Horace about a large sum missing from the latest bank statement. I don't usually see the statements, but he left it on the dining table by mistake."
"How did he react?"
"He was mad, of course, but more embarrassed than angry. Meanwhile, I'd like you to amend the report to include Robert's discussion with you."
"I'm afraid I can't do that, Doris... I promised..."
"But I'm aware of the situation already, Dickson."
"Not from Bob's admission or perspective. Maybe we should meet--you and me--and discuss the issue. By the way, did Horace mention his interest in my property?"
"Oops, this is getting very complicated. I think we should meet."
Mick arrived next morning as Dickson prepared breakfast of poached eggs on toast. "Sorry I'm a bit late, mate, I saw Horace's Wolseley and stopped for a chat. He said he'd be over later today."
"Here? Dammit! Doris is coming here today."
"She didn't say... sometime this afternoon. When is Horace due?"
"Jesus! We could have a major disaster on our hands. Keep your eye on the eggs--I'll phone Doris."
The number you are calling is not answering. The phone is either unattended or switched off. Please try again later.
"Bloody hell," Dickson continued, "Murphy's Law is at it again. Put your thinking cap on, Mick, we need a plan... and we need it fast."
During breakfast, Mick checked the latest form guide. "Harley Davidson has firmed, it's into seven to two. Good thing I got fixed odds at five to one."
"If it wins."
"Don't be negative, Dicko."
"Okay, so what are we gonna do about Doris and Horace?"
"What can we do? Just keep phoning."
Dickson checked his watch: 7:45. Cody might still be at home, he thought, and phoned the mop top. "They're both out," Cody said after he quickly checked the house next door. "I don't know where they are--sorry. So what's the prob?"
"Never mind, mate. Hey, when are you coming around for another surf?"
"How about this arvo?"
"Not this arvo, mate. We've got a full book. How about tomorrow?"
Mick suggested that they vacate the house, pin a note to the back door to explain their absence. But Dickson disagreed: "What happens if they turn up together?"
Every half hour, Dickson tried Doris' number. "She must have forgotten that she turned off her phone," he muttered after a string of failures.
"I've been thinking about what Bob said," Mick interrupted as if he weren't paying attention. "Remember? He was about to say something about what Doris might think if she knew Horace was a... and then changed the subject. I reckon whatever he was about to say relates somehow to Horace's business trips."
"All very interesting, Mr. Morris, but unless it relates to a murder motive, it's not worth a pinch of rat poo. Personally, I think we're being inundated with way too many furphies... red herrings. Besides, we have a far more urgent problem on our hands."
"You're right--we can't surf, dammit."
At midday, Mick turned on the radio to listen to the form guide for Randwick races. Harley Davidson was nominated by the race caller, Ian Craig, as a special to win the Bondi Cup over 1600 meters. "Special? Woohoo! We're on a certainty!" Mick cried and shook his fists. "We can't lose!"
"Ian Craig doesn't bet."
"No, he's too smart for that. Did you hear what he said? Whatever beats Harley Davison will win the race, and that could mean any of the other 15 runners."
"I wonder how Bob is feeling now. I hope he took fixed odds. It's in to five to two already. Anyway, I can feel it in my bones, Dicko, winners are grinners."
"You owe me $5."
"No wukkers, mate, I'll give you the five bucks now which means I keep the winnings. You still want it?"
Just after 1pm, the boys heard a car enter the backyard. It was the Wolseley, black and gleaming in the bright sunlight. Dickson tried Doris' phone one more time without success. Then the board-shorted hosts welcomed Horace Fink into the house, where they offered him a drink. "Coffee, black, one sugar." When the trio was seated on the front verandah, Dickson said to his mate, "You were going to do some pruning in the garden out back."
"Don't you remember?"
"Oh, yes! Pruning! So I was. Excuse me Mr. Fink, uh, the pruning beckons. I'll catch you later."
"Now, Dickson," Horace began, "down to business. Have you thought over my offer?"
"It's very interesting."
"Is that it? No decision yet?"
"I'm 18, Horace, this is all new to me. I need to feel 100% confident of making the correct choice."
"Very sensible, so tell me about your concerns."
Dickson was about to answer when his cell phone rang. "Excuse me, Horace. I'll keep this short ... hello?"
"It's Doris, can I talk?"
"No, I'm quite happy with my current Telco, thank you."
"I saw the Wolseley and kept driving. Mick was frantically waving his arms. Is Horace there?"
"Yes, their rates are quite cheap and I really..."
"Call me when he's gone."
"Okay, not a problem--thanks--bye."
"Bloody tele-marketers, they drive me crazy too," Horace commented. "And now, about your concerns."
"My gran, for one, she would be devastated if I were to sell this house."
"But you're not selling, not strictly speaking. Besides, how do you know what your gran would be thinking now? With respect, I believe my offer is quite generous and benefits all parties equally. I'd appreciate a yes or a no, Dickson. Again, with respect, I don't dilly dally in business. You're either interested or you're not."