The essence of Horace Fink's blunt statement, it seemed to Dickson, was to take it or leave it. "With respect, Horace, I don't like to be pressured. From my standpoint, it's not as simple as you would have me believe. A decision such as this will affect the rest of my life, and I'm not about to rush into anything as important as what's on offer here. If you insist on an answer right now, at this moment, then I'm afraid..."
"Okay, okay, okay, Dickson, don't get your knickers in a knot. However, I would appreciate an answer by early next week--say Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, my friend," Horace said with a wry smile, "be mindful of the fact that I too am capable of changing my mind."
"Is that a threat, Mr. Fink?"
"It's business, Mr. Bottoms-purely business."
The pair shook hands, and headed to the Wolseley parked in the backyard where Mick was diligently pruning the shrubs and roses. "See you later, Horace," he said.
Once the car had purred out of sight, Mick eagerly sought Dickson's account of the business chat.
"I can see now why he is so disliked," Dickson said as his partner followed him inside the house. "If he thinks he has the upper hand, he tries to manipulate you, even dominate you."
"So, did you agree or not?"
"He gave me until early next week to decide."
"You already know the answer to that, Mick."
"Stop playing games, for Christ sake! Yes or no?"
"Okay, okay, don't get mad at me," Mick said quietly as the blond pressed a few digits on his cell phone.
Doris Fink arrived shortly thereafter. "Tea with lemon?" her host asked.
"Something stronger if that's alright with you, Dickson."
"Dry white? It's in a cask--Berri--but it's an eminently quaffable drop. And it was on special; two for $20."
"Are you hinting at a pay rise?" Doris laughed, and led the way to the `office' on the front verandah. "I'm dying to know what Horace had to say."
For the next half hour, Doris was informed of all that had taken place between Horace and Dickson. "But you have no intention of agreeing to his offer?" she asked but didn't wait for an answer. "I don't blame you, Dickson. If you wanted to build a block of units here, nothing is stopping you from approaching a bank and doing it yourself with the property as equity. And you wouldn't have to share it with anyone. Besides, I don't agree with my husband's bullying tactics either--he's trying to take advantage of your inexperience in such matters. Now, what about Robert Down?"
"What about him? What he told me was in confidence, Doris, so it's up to you to tell me what you know."
"I think Horace underestimated you, Dickson," Doris smiled. "You're not silly." Then she revealed what she had gleaned from Horace about the loan to Robert and the subsequent problems. "So, am I missing anything?"
"Only one thing."
Dickson checked his watch. "You'll know pretty soon--3:05 in fact. Bring the radio out here Mick."
They're off in the Bondi Cup. A pretty even start but Harley Davidson dwelt and is relegated to the tail of the field as the pack heads for the first turn. Light Southerly takes the lead, followed by Medaaly Gold, Clangity Jane and Will Strike on the outside, then Wolf Star, Canadian Twilight, Proceedings, Fine Dane, Lanmish, Sheik, Filly Moor, St. Chandon, Wannabe, Sawtooth, Frenetic Flight and Harley Davidson hugging the rail at the tail of the field.
Around the first bend and Clangity Jane takes the lead with Canadian Twilight in hot pursuit and Chandon third. The favourite Harley Davidson is still in trouble at the tail with nowhere to run.
"Ah, shit," Mick complained, "the bloody nag's running last! We've done our dough for sure!"
"You're not the only one, mate. Bob's blown it big time."
Heading into the final straight now, and Beadman takes Harley Davidson off the rails to the extreme outside as Wannabe surges to a narrow lead in a fierce struggle for supremacy in the home straight. With 200 meters to go in the Bondi Cup, Wannabe just in front of Canadian Twilight who's now challenged by the fast finishing Lanmish ... and here comes Harley Davidson down the outside with a withering run! 50 meters to go--Wannabe by a nose to Lanmish and Canadian Twilight a close third. Lanmish, Canadian Twilight, Lanmish, but Harley Davidson is swallowing up the field. He's closing in on the leaders. This is unbelievable! What a finish ladies and gentlemen--Harley Davidson neck and neck with Lanmish and ... they hit it! Oh, dear, from this angle it's hard to tell ... perhaps Harley Davidson on the outside, but it's close... very close. A photo has been called for by the judge ... it's a photo finish. Hold onto your tickets, ladies and gentlemen, it could go either way.
"Jesus!" Mick cried, "this is murder!"
The judge has called for a second print... a second print to separate the first two placegetters. There's not an eyelash between them, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the closest finishes I've called over the years. And here comes the result... it's... Harley Davidson by the narrowest possible margin! Harley Davidson is the winner of the Bondi Cup by a wart!
Dickson and Mick whooped and danced around the front verandah but were interrupted by Doris who held the radio to her ear. "What does a protest mean?"
There's a protest, ladies and gentlemen--second against first alleging interference over the final 50 meters. The rider of Lanmish has lodged a protest against Harley Davidson for alleged interference.
The result of the protest should be known in five or so minutes, ladies and gentlemen, so hang onto your tickets--or try to find the one you threw away in disgust.
"Bloody hell, how can he joke about something like that?" Dickson asked as he wrung his hands. "Bob must be chewing his nails all the way to his elbows right now. I need a drink."
After delivering three dry whites to the verandah, Dickson and the others listened intently to the radio and remained silent.
Dismissed!--the protest second against first has been dismissed, ladies and gentlemen--dismissed. The original placings stand and Harley Davidson is the official winner of the Bondi Cup.
Silence quickly erupted into cheers and salutes as three glasses were raised in triumph. "I'm dying to know how Robert fared," Doris said. "That whole silly feud business between him and Horace had me worried. I don't doubt for a moment that Mr. Down has a propensity for settling disputes in a violent manner."
"You said the murder of Horace Fink is inevitable."
"Being a widow is one thing, Mick, being a carer for an invalid is quite another."
Shortly after Doris departed the beach house to return home, Paul arrived for his surfing lessons; not that he needed any, he'd become quite the grommet expert out on the waves. However, Dickson and Mick were not prepared to let the youngster surf unsupervised... just yet.
Not unexpectedly, Bob Down arrived and sat on the front verandah as the lads returned to the house to shower. "Don't worry, Dickson," he laughed, "I bought two six packs of Stubbies--one for me and one for you--my shout. Yours is in the fridge. Hell, if I drank bubbly I would've bought a six pack of Dom Periwinkle or whatever you call that fancy Frog stuff." As the surfers showered under the hose, their bearded friend continued. "I can't thank you enough, guys, or Aunt Flo. Does she drink bubbly? I'll shout her a dozen. You should have seen me this afternoon hahahaha! I practically rung that radio's neck hahahaha! Yes, I bought a radio specially for the race... first one I've ever owned. I tell you what, I think that photo finish and protest cured my gambling habit for life hahahaha! Never again!" Bob then produced a calico bag and tipped the contents onto the verandah floor. "Check this out, guys--one hundred and twenty five thousand smackeroonies in neat bundles. You ever see anything so damn pretty? Apart from a Harley, of course, hahahaha!"
Three young jaws simultaneously dropped to the grass. "Cash?"
"The SP bookie was gonna write me a check so I let the Winchester do the talking hahahaha!"
"You better be careful, mate, carrying all that cash around."
"Horace wasn't home when I called around to his house. I'll try again on the way back. Meantime, I want you guys to take this five grand as a token of my gratitude."
"No, no, no, no, no," Dickson insisted.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," Bob growled and thrust the bundle of cash at Dickson.
"Don't argue with the man," Mick interrupted, bug eyed, and accepted the money on his mate's behalf. "I wanna see what it looks like spread over the kitchen table. Woohoo!"
Dickson invited Bob to stay for dinner, but the man declined. "Another time, mate, I gotta split to the Fink house. Then I got some business to discuss with the O'Reillys. I might even bring the Winchester along hahahaha! Oh, and you can finish the rest of these stubbies. I think I need a good dose of my home brew."
As the three lads bid farewell to the leathered Harley rider at the rear gate, Paul's impatience took control and he became a frantic flurry of fingers using sign. Dickson explained the story and the reason for all the money. "By the way, when is your birthday?"
As the boy pedaled down the road, the super sleuths returned to the house and helped themselves to a beer each. "We should celebrate tonight," Mick suggested. "Let's go to some posh restaurant."
"And spend a small fortune? No, let's not. We went through way too much stress to earn this money just to fritter it away on a damn feed in a posh restaurant."
"Yeah, I guess you're right--at least let me spread it over the table. Where's the camera?"