Dickson explained to Fogsy that he preferred more time to think about the Horace Fink situation before suggesting any plan of action--or indeed inaction--and that the two should get together for another chat in a day or two. Then both lads paused to listen to the unmistakable sound of a Harley arriving. "What the hell is Bob Down doing here?" Dickson wondered aloud as he and his new young friend headed to the back door. In the yard, while Mick repaired scratches to the damaged Suzuki with touch-up paint, he was watched with interest by the bearded biker.
"G'day, Bob, this is my friend Alan Fogarty. Alan ... Bob Down."
"Bob as in Robert."
"Oops! Pleased to meet you," the young blonde smiled as his hand was crushed by Bob's ham fist. "Wow, this is a totally mad bike!"
"That ain't no bike, mate, that's a cycle."
"That's what I said."
"I don't suppose..."
Dickson loaned the boy his helmet, and watched the pair rumble down the road for an impromptu joy ride. Then he checked Mick's painting efforts. "Bloody good job, mate--excellent. You deserve more money."
"Cool," Mick grinned.
"Scratch my last comment."
"So what was the chat with Fogsy all about?"
"Later--it's kinda complicated."
Half an hour later, Bob returned to the beach house, minus his passenger. "I took him home," he explained as he handed Dickson his helmet. "He said he'd phone you later, and thanked you for your time today. Nice kid."
"Did he enjoy the ride?"
"Stoked, to use your surfer lingo. Got me to do a few laps of the block so his neighbors could ogle, hahahaha! So what's the story with the rice rocket?"
Over a beer on the front verandah, Dickson told Bob about the accident. Not to be outdone, Mick then related his story about the bee sting. "You blokes sure lead pretty exciting lives," Bob chuckled before his expression changed to serious. "Listen, guys, I'm leaving town. Got a job offer from a dairy farmer in Tamworth with the opportunity to buy shares in his property. Can't handle all that O'Reilly indecision and farting about. So I'm off."
"I gave it plenty of consideration. The local gendarmes are not too crazy about the idea, though."
"I do undercover work," the beard said without thinking. "By the way, not a word of what you just heard to anyone, okay? Or you guys will be six foot undercover, if you get my drift."
"Don't tell us any more."
"Anyway, I thought I'd pop in and let you know. I don't have many friends, but I'd like to think you guys are mates of mine ... despite the rice rockets."
"Thanks, we appreciate that. You got time to stay for dinner? Burgers with the lot."
"I didn't bring any grappa."
"Thank Christ for that!"
After burgers and beers, the trio ambled along the beach in the warm glow of late sunset. Bob's lily-white feet had never seen the light of day, and his toenails were partially distorted by the almost permanent confines of boots. "Don't you breathe a word of this," he grumbled as he gingerly picked his way through the occasional scattering of sharp shells. "If my bikie mates ever get wind of this I'll never live it down."
"Feels good, though, huh?"
"So tell us how it was with Horace when you turned up with all that loot."
"I didn't stay long--his wife was there--we don't get along." Bob took a slapstick moment to outrun the incoming wash, then rejoined the boys. "How can you blokes actually enjoy paddling around in that stuff? Too bloody cold, for one thing."
"You've never surfed?"
"No, and I ain't about to start now. Besides, I don't like the idea of doing anything without boots on."
"Hahaha! Now you're gonna tell us you sleep with `em on."
"You guessed right--and I'll be buried with the buggers as well."
"So, this undercover work you mentioned--you ever bust anyone?"
"No way, Jose. I'd be a dead man. I gave the Ds certain information that assisted certain investigations into drug dealing and gang disputes--that kinda thing. It all got a bit too close to home when I accidentally discovered stuff about Horace. That's one of the reasons I'm leaving town--I know too much."
"When we first met, you told us that if anyone crossed Horace you'd intervene on his behalf."
"That was then, mate, this is now."
"Is Horace aware of what you know about him?"
"No. If he was he wouldn't have dared ask for his 100 thou back. Anyway, let's change the subject, fellas. Those burgers were bloody sensational--you're one helluva cook, Dickson. By the way, and tell me if I'm outta line here, but do you guys have a thing going? Doesn't matter to me if you do."
"Not the kinda thing you're thinking, Bob. We're close, yeah, very close--best mates."
"Not at the moment."
"Too much hassle, anyway. I prefer the cows."
Both Dickson and Mick thought it prudent, in the interests of discretion as well as their own wellbeing, not to pursue the bearded bikie's last comment.
Bob left soon afterward to tend his herd before nightfall. Mick took the opportunity to quiz Dickson about his conversation with Alan Fogarty. "Do you believe him?" he asked as the pair retired to the front verandah with coffee and home-made cookies.
"I have no reason not to."
"What if it's some kinda ploy to throw us off the scent? What if all that stuff about Fink's already being unconscious is a prefabrication?"
"Possible, but I don't think so. Actually, I'm more interested in Barbara Thorne's involvement. Fogsy says it was her idea and, let's face it, she was at the airport to see him off."
"Yeah, but all we got is Fogsy's hearsay. I reckon Lemon Lips is too smart to incriminate herself. Hey, Dicko, these are awesome cookies, mate."
"Gran's recipe. And what do you think about Bob's admission that he knows something sinister about Fink?"
"He didn't say it was sinister."
"No--but it all ties in--sort of."
"Sort of ain't good enough, mate. It's all circumstantial." Mick finished another cookie before continuing. "And what about the house? I reckon you should phone Fink and tell him no deal. Besides, I don't want him around here again."
"In that case, we won't get the opportunity to learn more. I think I should stall my answer for as long as I can. By the way, how are your folks taking your gay thing?"
"Not too good. They don't say anything directly but the atmos at home is kinda strained. I can sense it. I reckon I might move out."
"Where will you go?" It took less than a moment for Dickson to figure the obvious answer. "Oh, wait a minute, Mick," he added quickly. "I don't know if I'm prepared for that. As much as I enjoy your company I also like my independence."
"What difference would it make? I'm always here anyway, and I can sleep in the spare room. You won't see any more of me than you already do. Hey, if you wanna keep the spare room spare, I can bunk down on the couch or whatever. Maybe I can fix up part of the garage as a kinda flat."
Early next morning, Dickson rented a pantech truck. Then the boys toured various building sites in town to find suitable recycled materials for the `flat'. They also called into the Salvation Army store to purchase used furniture. Their final stop before heading home was Taree Hire where they selected a range of power tools and other implements.
After unloading the truck, Dickson drove it back to town and returned to the beach house on his Suzuki. Shortly afterwards, a team of helpers, organized by Mick, arrived: Cody, Mark and Fogsy. The rear yard for the remainder of the day resembled a professional building site with carpenters, painters, plasterers and various other tradesmen (albeit dressed only in board shorts) going about their business. Part of the renovation necessitated moving items such as the lawnmower and other bulky items from the garage to be stored under the house.
By late afternoon, the garage had been magically and successfully transformed into a small but liveable bedsitter, complete with old but practical furniture, and a carpeted floor. Other facilities such as kitchen and bathroom were available to share in the main house.
"This is so cool!" Cody beamed with pride as the group stood back to admire their handiwork. "Not sure about the pink walls, though."
"It was cheap," Mick explained. "Now all I gotta do is fit a side door and window, but that can wait." Mick walked to his bike and threw a leg over the saddle. "Back in a tick," he added before fitting his helmet and riding off.
"Where's he going?" Fogsy asked.
"I think I know." And with that, Dickson disappeared inside the house to retrieve 5 of his Gran's crystal champagne flutes.