"No can do," Dickson informed Mick after phoning the local travel agent. "Flight passenger lists are not available to the public, at least not officially. So I'm not sure how we can check to see who was out of town when Horace was attacked in Auckland."
"How about unofficially?"
The two Suzukis came to rest in the parking area of Taree airport. After removing their helmets, the boys proceeded inside to the reception area. "I wonder if you could help me," Mick said to the young lady behind the desk. Because it was Mick's idea, Dickson left it to his mate to tell whatever fibs he thought appropriate for the `cause'. "Some friends of mine travelled to Auckland, New Zealand, recently and I haven't heard from them since."
"Have you tried the police or missing persons?"
"Well, I'd rather not make my inquiry official, if you know what I mean--it might upset somebody or cause panic. So, I thought..."
"Do you have their names?"
"Yes, I do--as well as their photographs." Mick placed the documents on the desk and watched the girl study the material for some time.
"I remember this guy," she said and pointed to the photograph of Ian Ajit, "but he returned to Taree a few weeks ago."
"We're fishing mates."
"Oh, God, don't talk about fishing--my boyfriend never stops--drives me crazy." After a moment's pause, the girl pointed to a second picture. "This one looks kind of familiar."
"Yes, but she didn't fly out--she was with a guy--a boy about 15--he flew out alone and the woman left the airport after the flight took off."
"To Auckland? Alone?"
"Via Sydney, yes, he mentioned it."
"Can you describe the boy?"
"Cute--I remember wishing he was a little older," she laughed. "He was about my height--175 centimeters--five foot eight, and had straight blond hair--collar length, almost like a girl's. He was tanned so I guessed he might be a surfer. Oh, and there was a little brown mole on his upper lip. I'm not sure but I think his eyes were blue--maybe green--maybe a bit of both."
"Do you remember his name?"
"No, sorry. Oh, wait! I think I remember the woman calling him ... uh, Fogsy ... or something like that."
Back at the beach house, Dickson and Mick discussed the latest development. "Fogsy?" The blonde commented as he boiled water for two coffees. "What do you make of that?"
"Some nickname or other, but my guess is that he's probably a student at Lemon Lips' school. Maybe Cody knows him, or of him."
"That still doesn't explain why he traveled to Auckland--his trip may have bugger all to do with Horace. You know something, Mick? If ever I write a murder mystery I'll keep it simple--bang, bang, you're dead, and it's all over."
"The bloke in the story, you dimwit, now drink your coffee."
Later that afternoon, Paul arrived and was given the new surfboard to ride. "This is too small for you," he said in sign, "whose is it?"
"A friend's. He said it's okay for you to use it. Just don't ding it or I'll wallop your butt."
"It's awesome! Wow, maybe I can save up and buy one like this for myself some day!"
The boys were showering under the hose when Dickson answered a call on his cell phone. "G'day, Cody, hey listen, I'm a bit tied up at the mo, I'll call you back in about fifteen. Okay?"
Paul raved so enthusiastically about the board and his rides that Dickson was overwhelmingly tempted to give the little redhead his birthday present right there and then but, with great difficulty, managed to control his urge. "You'll meet the owner one day, Paul, and maybe he'll let you have it."
"Yeah, right--fat chance. And tell him thanks from me, okay. He must be a totally cool guy."
"Actually," Mick laughed, "he's an asshole."
After the beaming kid had pedaled his way home, Dickson returned Cody's call. "Sorry, mate, Paul was here. So, what's up?"
"I saw Doris in the front yard when I arrived home from school, and said hi. Then I asked her what the black box was in the roof space. She said she didn't know--that maybe it was some gizmo that Horace had installed. So she said she'd ask Horace... and I blew it. `No, no, no, no!' I said without thinking. Then I had to play it cool and make out like I didn't want Horace to think I'd been snooping. She bought it, thank Christ. Then I told her it had some writing on it--something about video recording--and she got all curious like. Horace wasn't home, so she asked me if I'd go up to the roof cavity again and check it out. I brought the disk back down with me. `What's that for?' she asked, so I told her it was a video recording disk. She was really puzzled and didn't know what to think. Anyway, I didn't wanna hang around so I told her how to play it on the comp and that I'd be back soon to replace the disk in the box. Man, she was ashen faced when I went back there. She didn't say what she'd seen and I wasn't gonna tell her what I knew, so I put the disk back in the box in the ceiling and came home. And here I am."
"Jesus! Talk about a Pandora's box! God knows what she must be thinking now. Hey, listen, do you know a kid at school--straight blond hair, mole on the upper lip--called Fogsy?"
"Yeah, I know Fogsy--Alan Fogarty. He's in the swim team--bit of a poser but not a bad bloke. He's in a grade below mine so I don't know him all that well. Why?"
"How does he get along with Lemon Lips?"
"I see them chatting sometimes in the quad. What's all this about?"
"I'll let you know next time you're here for a surf. How about the weekend?"
"You want me to invite Fogsy?"
"If you want, sure."
After ending the call, Dickson brought his partner up to speed on the matter. "I wonder what Doris will have to say--or whether she says anything at all. We've gotten ourselves into one helluva sticky mess, mate."
"We? We're observers, not participants. Anyway, what's for...?"
"Aaaggghhh! How can you nonchalantly brush aside what you've just heard?"
"I'm not brushing it aside, Dicko--the sky hasn't fallen in you know--life goes on. How's a bloke supposed to think on an empty stomach?" And with that Mick opened the fridge door and peered inside. "Dory filets? Chicken breasts? Mince? Prawns? Hmmmm. Prawn cutlets sound good... and chips?"
"Yeah, but I'm sexy and gorgeous."
"C'mon, Dicko, admit it--you lust after me."
"Cut the crap, Mick--get serious. Cody said he didn't know the kid in the video, right? What if it was this Fogsy bloke? That might explain why he went to Auckland. What if he's the bloke who attacked Horace in the hotel room?"
"Aren't you jumping the gun a little?"
"Maybe. I dunno, Mick, my brain's trying to make sense of all this complex shit and it's frustrating me to hell. There's gotta be a simple solution somehow, but I'm buggered if I know what it is."
"Rome wasn't built in a day, mate."
"Give the fucking clichés a rest."
"Ooer, you swore!"
"I think I need a change of career--that's if you can call this private investigator bullshit a career--it's more like a sentence."
"You can't quit now."
"I know that, dumb dumb--that just exacerbates the situation."
"You're forgetting something, Dicko. The reason you got into this business was because your folks were murdered in a bungled robbery. One day, you might get lucky and bring the culprits to justice. And while you remain in the business of tracking down the baddies, I figure you've got a better chance of solving the crime that took the lives of your folks. Think of the Fink case as a learning curve."
"You want a learning curve, Mick? You peel and de-vein the prawns and I'll make the cutlets."
"Me and my big mouth."
While Mick attended to the prawns, Dickson grabbed a beer and sat on the front verandah where he watched the glow of the fading sunset. His mind wandered back to his early childhood and what he remembered of the tragedy that befell his parents. He was too young at the time to fully comprehend the magnitude of the catastrophe and, rather, sought desperate comfort in the loving arms of his gran, who raised him as her own. Nonetheless, Dickson formed a mental picture of his father and mother through the stories his gran often told. "They would be very proud of their son," she said often as the lad matured, "and you would be very proud of them. Live your life for others, Dickson, so that the lives of others will make your own worthwhile."
"Prawns are ready," Mick announced as he sat next to his friend on the verandah and took a swig of beer. "So, what are you thinking about? Or is that a silly question?"
"What you said about my folks."
"Sorry if made you sad."
"No worries, mate."
"Listen, Dicko, there's something I want to tell you but I'm not sure this is the right time or place."
"Give it a shot."
"Promise you won't blow a gasket?"
"Last night, I had a chat with my folks and they kinda freaked a little--actually more than a little. I came out."
"Came what? What are talking about?"
"I told them I was gay."
"What? Gay? Ha! You're about as gay as I am, you idiot. What the hell got into you? What a load of crap that is!"
The conversation lapsed into silence for a minute or two as both lads gazed out to sea; their minds frantically searching some kind of rational explanation. Mick finally broke the pregnant hush by asking Dickson what he was thinking.
"Well," he began with a sigh, without taking his eyes off the horizon, "what does that say about me? If you are what you say you are, how does that affect what your folks think about me? Have you told anyone else?"
"I don't know what to say, Mick." Dickson shook his head, took a swig of beer, and repeated his statement.