Bright and early Saturday morning, Cody Callaghan and Alan Fogarty arrived at the beach house--barefoot, bare-chested, and wearing knee-length floral board shorts. "Rise and shine, boys," Cody yelled at the back door, then took the liberty of entering the house. He saw no one about, so he knocked on Dickson's bedroom door. "Hey, Dicko! Wakey wakies! Surf's up!"
A moment later, the open bedroom door revealed a bleary-eyed blond dressed in boxer shorts that hid precious little of his morning rise. "What time is it?"
"Too many beers."
"A few waves will take care of that, mate. By the way, this is Fogsy."
The sight of the small mole on the boy's upper lip quickly returned Dickson to the reality of the present. "G'day, Fogsy, pleased to meet you... I think. I don't feel too well."
The new-day sun's first rays had barely peeked over the horizon as the trio entered the surf and paddled their way to the back line, with waves maybe two to three feet but well shaped and glassy. An hour later, the lads showered under the hose in the front yard where they were met by Mick. "Just in time for breakfast!"
"Cody volunteered to do scrambled eggs on toast," Dickson announced with a laugh.
"Don't you remember? We all took one step backwards."
"But I don't know how to do scrambled eggs!" the spiky mop protested.
"Mick will give you lessons. Right, Mick?"
Dickson's impression of Fogsy was that, despite a superficially cheerful demeanor, he hid something--something that perhaps bordered on the sinister. "This private detective business is getting to me," Dickson thought to himself, and dismissed his suspicion. Nonetheless, he was keen to extract whatever information he could glean about the boy's association with Horace Fink.
"Mad house you got here," Fogsy said as the group ate breakfast in the kitchen. "I'd kill for something like this."
"I'm considering an offer from a bloke," Dickson said. "He wants an answer early next week."
"You mean an offer to kill you or to buy this joint?"
"His name is Horace Fink. You know him?"
"Never heard of him."
"Oh? I thought just about everyone around here knew that bloke. He's got quite a rep. He made the offer when he returned from a business trip to Auckland. You ever been there?"
"But what about...?" was as far as the interruption from Cody got before he received a glare and a kick on the ankle from the young blond.
"What about what?" Dickson asked Cody.
"So," Fogsy continued, and brought an abrupt end to his mate's unwelcome intrusion, "are you gonna take the offer or what?"
"I've been warned against it."
"Cool--that saves me from warning you."
"Warn me? Warn me about what, Alan?"
"You'd be crazy to sell this house, mate, totally Loony Tunes. Besides, I don't like the sound of this Fink bloke." Alan gathered the empty plates and took them to the kitchen sink. "So," he added, "what do you guys do for a crust?"
"Bit of this and that... odd jobs... handyman stuff."
"Got any spare work? I could use a few extra bucks and I'm good with my hands."
"Yeah, right," Cody laughed as he half filled the sink with hot water, and added detergent.
"Keep your mind above your navel for a change," Alan snapped. "Is that all you ever think about?"
Mick responded to the sound of a car entering the drive and went to the rear door to check. "It's Horace," he explained as he returned to the kitchen. Alan suddenly, and without a word of explanation, disappeared down the hall to front of the house, grabbed his board and headed for the surf.
"Good morning," Horace Fink grinned as he joined the remaining three lads. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything. I was in the area so I thought I'd pop in." And with that, the balding man placed a black leather briefcase on the table. "I thought you might like to take a look at something to help your decision with regard to our business deal. Go ahead and open it, Mr. Bottoms."
Dickson obeyed and clicked the gold locks of the case. Cody, still with detergent foam on his hands, came to the table to satisfy his curiosity. "Wow!" he cried, mouth agape. "Bloody hell, how much is there?"
"One hundred thousand dollars," the beaming guest replied, "and there's more where that came from. Very pretty, yes? Go ahead and feel it, Dickson--you too, Mick. Take a bundle and flick through the notes."
"Is this a bribe?" Dickson asked.
"Of course it's a bribe! However, I'd rather call it incentive, my friend." Horace returned the money to the case, closed the lid and prepared to leave. "Think about it, Dickson, and I'll hear from you before Tuesday. Have a nice day, boys." A minute later, the gentlemanly Wolseley motored down the road and out of sight.
"Has he gone?" Alan asked, still dripping wet from the surf, at the back door.
"What got into you, man?" Cody demanded. "You shot through like a Bondi tram!"
"It's an expression my grandpa used," Cody explained to Dickson. "In the old days..."
"Never mind that now. Alan? Is there a problem?"
"Not now, there ain't." Then the boy took a cold shower under the outdoor hose.
Dickson privately deduced that being alone with the young blond was the only way to coax him into a suitable frame of mind to confide whatever it was that bothered him. "Listen mate, if there's something you need to talk about, I'm all ears. Okay? You choose the time and place. No pressure."
"Thanks--I'll think about it."
"Now can I tell you about the Bondi trams?" Cody pouted.
"It was back when my grandpa was a kid and he used to surf at Bondi Beach in Sydney--not on a board, though, they didn't have boards back then. So anyway, the beach was always packed on summer weekends and when it came time for people to return home--because not many had cars--they all lined up for the tram ride back to the city. Yeah? And guess what?"
"The trams were full."
"Hey, it's my story, okay? Yeah, they were all packed to the rafters so they ignored the queues at the tram stops and shot through. Get it?"
"Fascinating stuff, Code."
"What's fascinating, you bloody cynic, is that `shot through like a Bondi tram' became part of Aussie lingo... a colloquialism. At least, that's what my grandpa said."
"Does your dad surf?"
"You betcha--styles real good. He still puts a lotta grommets to shame. We surf together whenever we get the chance. I'm real proud of my dad. He surfed as a teen with those big, heavy planks. When he was a lighty, it took at least two grommets to carry the bloody board down to the waves, hehehehe. Yeah, my dad is totally cool. He taught me to surf when I was a little Cody."
The group hit the surf once more, then returned to the house for lunch. Mick volunteered to ride into town for a few extra groceries. When he failed to return in normal time, Dickson checked the rear yard. "Cody!" He yelled from the back door, "get Alan to phone triple O while you bring my cell phone! Hurry!"
When Cody arrived with the phone, he saw Mick unconscious on the lawn, still wearing his helmet and being attended by Dickson who knelt beside his mate. The blond grabbed the phone and punched in Dr. David Hardy's number. "It's an emergency," he yelled and demanded to speak to the doctor despite his being busy with another patient.
"Hello? Dr. Hardy speaking."
"It's Dickson Bottoms, doc, I just found Mick unconscious on the back lawn. He's been vomiting. I can see redness and swelling on his arm."
"Have you called emergency?"
"Can you see a black dot near the swelling?"
"Use your credit card or a blunt knife to swipe over the stinger and remove it."
"Stinger?" Dickson wasted no time in following the doc's instructions. "You mean a bee sting?"
"Probably. Get some ice and cover the swelling."
Dickson relayed the message to Cody then returned his attention to the matter at hand. "It's coming, doc. Anything else?"
"Clean the area with soap and water." Again, Dickson relayed the message to Cody who had just delivered the ice. "Do you have any hydrocortisone cream?" the doctor added.
"I don't think so."
"Use a paste of baking soda and water."
Alan, who by this time had advised Dickson that an ambulance was on its way, was ordered to make a paste of baking soda and water. Both he and Cody raced inside the house and were back at the scene within a minute. Dickson then applied the paste to the wound area using one hand while holding the phone with the other. "It sounds to me like Mick has a sting allergy," the doctor said, "perhaps even anaphylaxis. You probably saved your friend's life by your quick action. When the ambulance arrives, let me talk to one of the medics."
Moments later, the ambulance pulled into the drive and one of the officers took Dickson's phone. Mick, by this time, had begun to stir and slowly regain consciousness. "It's okay, mate," Dickson said as he knelt beside his friend, "you'll be fine. No worries, mate. I'll visit the hospital soon to check. Now you behave yourself and try not to molest the nurses."
"Guys or girls?" Mick smiled before being placed on a stretcher and lifted into the ambulance.
Once the VW Transporter had left the house, Dickson thanked Cody and Alan for their help. "You guys certainly know how to respond to an emergency. I owe you blokes, and so does Mick. Thanks a stack."
"No worries, mate," Cody smiled. "Feels kinda good to do stuff like that. Glad we could help."
"Listen guys, lunch is off, okay. Take a raincheck. I'm off to the hospital--maybe you guys can visit later. Meanwhile, make yourself at home here--this house is your house."