Having tidied a few loose ends in his new flat, Mick returned to the house where Dickson typed at the computer. "It's the latest report for Doris," the blond explained. "But there are still more questions than answers. Is Fogsy telling the truth about what he saw in Auckland? To what extent is Barbara Thorne involved? How much does Bob Down know about Horace's `other life'?"
"You're forgetting the cops, mate. If Bob is an undercover agent..."
"...how much do they know about Horace as well? Yeah, I get your drift."
"Do you also get the feeling you and I know bugger all about this case?"
"That's why we're in the business we're in, mate, and getting paid for it. So what's for dinner?"
"Dinner?" Mick asked with a cocked eyebrow. "Me?"
"I'm worn out, Mick. Your turn to be chef."
By the time Mick returned with pizza and garlic bread from Old Bar, Dickson had completed the Doris Fink report, which he printed, folded and placed in a plain envelope. Then the boys eagerly devoured their meal at the kitchen table and washed it down with a beer.
"Have you thought about rent, Dicko? ...for the flat, I mean."
"What do you pay your folks?"
"Fifty a week but that's for food."
"Tell you what, mate, if you share the house work and the grocery bill, we'll call it quits. How's that?"
"And what about Fink? Fink gets the flick, right? No sale."
Horace and his gleaming black Wolseley arrived just after breakfast next morning as the boys attended to domestic chores. Mick, holding a wet sponge and a can of Ajax, answered the rear door.
"No need for that," Horace laughed. "The place will be demolished anyhow."
"Dickson's in the bathroom--follow me."
The boys postponed their cleaning duties long enough to make coffee and entertain their guest at the kitchen table. "I've considered your offer, Horace," Dickson began. "However, there's something you've neglected to mention ... who exactly will occupy the apartments? Do you have an apartment in mind for yourself or someone you know?"
"Why, yes, but what does that have to do with your decision, Mr. Bottoms? My wife and I are experiencing a few domestic problems at the moment, and I thought one of the apartments would be a useful retreat for me during times of stress ... a place where I could invite a few friends from time to time. This is an ideal location, Dickson, far away from prying eyes. And don't worry about my friends--they're not old fogies. I enjoy the company of younger people, people like yourselves. Younger people are, in some ways, more... uh, shall we say, stimulating."
"Like Alan Fogarty?" Mick interrupted on impulse.
Horace's face turned raspberry red before the blood drained to reveal a ghostly white and agitated expression. "Can we discuss business in private?" he glared at Dickson.
"I'm sorry, Horace, but there is no business to discuss."
"You're declining my offer?"
"Is that your final decision?"
Without another word, Horace Fink stood and made his own way to the Wolseley, which quickly disappeared toward Old Bar in a cloud of dust.
"You'd make a great diplomat," Dickson said to his mate before he resumed his cleaning work in the bathroom.
"It just slipped out. That guy gives me the creeps."
"He won't anymore--you can bet that's the last we'll see of Horace Fink."
Once the housework was finished, Dickson phoned Doris' cell phone and explained that the latest report was ready for delivery or collection. "I'll be there at lunch time... say about one-ish? Please note, Dickson, L-U-N-C-H time."
The boys surfed until 12:30 then tended the kitchen ... savory tuna crepes, tossed salad and a bottle of Chardonnay. Doris arrived at 1:10 dressed in a sleeveless pale-blue blouse that revealed more than ample cleavage, white knee-length Bermuda shorts and chunky cork-heeled sandals. Her long red hair draped loosely over her bare ivory shoulders. "I see that you boys dress for lunch in the same way you dress for everything else--bare feet, bare torso, board shorts and hair that could easily defy even the most determined comb. BUT," she added before the boys could speak, "I wouldn't have it any other way. You're such a refreshing change from the usual lunch crowd and all their mindless gossip. Have you seen or heard from Horace?"
"He was here this morning." Dickson handed his client the envelope containing the report. "It's all in there."
Dickson took the tray of food to the front verandah while Mick followed with the wine and glasses. Doris was already reading the report as she stepped though the doorway and felt her way, almost blindly, to a chair where she sat down. "Alan Fogarty?" she asked as she lowered the report and reached for a crepe.
"That's the boy in the video."
Everyone ate while Doris finished reading the report. "These crepes are absolutely delicious," she said as she folded the report and reached for another morsel. "Very more-ish indeed."
"You don't seem upset," Mick noted as he poured the wine into Gran's old crystal flutes.
"I'm beyond being upset, Mick. I just want Horace out of my life ... one way or another. Quite frankly, my dear friends, if someone doesn't bump him off soon I'll be tempted to take care of the matter myself. Besides," she added with an arm stretched in the direction of the sweeping view, "who could be upset here? This is the real world, my young Adonises--the open air, the sea, miles of sandy beach, exquisite company, delicious food and wine... You remind me of Tony Spiropoulos; he loves his farm and the quiet life--he loves nature."
"He loves you."
"Yes, he does." In anticipation of the next comment, Doris asked the question herself: "Why not move in with Tony? Let's just say that it's a consideration. He's away for the next week but I have the key to the house. Living in close proximity to Horace at the moment is uncomfortable to say the least so I might spend a few days at the farm--a well-earned sabbatical."
"May I ask," Dickson inquired, "how this current situation affects Horace's will and testament arrangements?"
"It doesn't--at least, not yet. Horace's estate is the last thing on his mind at the moment. That will change, of course, if we divorce."
"Is divorce something you've discussed?"
"No, but I dare say that divorce is something we've both considered privately. The marriage is finished, there's no doubt about that. By the way," she added as she retrieved her purse from the floor, "here's another payment." Doris produced an envelope and handed it to Dickson. "You boys have done a remarkable job--you'll find a generous bonus in there."
Dickson thanked his client, then caught a whiff of Doris' perfume. "You're still wearing ... uh, the same fragrance."
"You mean Horace's concoction. I don't see it as Horace's--I spent just as many hours experimenting with various formulae as he did, so it's as much mine. Besides, no one else has it, and I enjoy the exclusivity."
Without warning, Mick leapt to his feet and brushed away an insect that hovered above the lady's head. "Damn bee," he said as he took a few more swings to send the creature on its way. Then he apologized to Doris for causing alarm. "I'm allergic to bee stings," he explained and checked that the coast was clear before he resumed his chair. "You were saying?"
"About the perfume? It does make the occasional bee somewhat curious, but I ignore them. Once they realize I'm not a flower they buzz off--excuse the pun. Speaking of which..." Doris, stood and brushed back her hair, "I have an appointment with Dr. Hardy."
"He's a friend as well as my doctor; we were an item years ago--a lovely man. He's happily married with a young family these days but we still see each other socially."
"Is he up to speed with Horace?"
"Yes. He never liked my husband. `That man will be the bane of your life,' he once warned me. Of course, at the time, I was madly in love and didn't listen. Meanwhile, I must be off--thank you both for a delicious lunch and wonderful company, as always. I'll be in touch."
Paul arrived after school for his surfing lesson; a lesson he didn't require. The redhead's proficiency amongst the waves was now more than adequate; at least on par with other grommets his age. After showering with his mentors in the front yard, he was about to leave for home when Dickson tapped the boy on the shoulder, "Haven't you forgotten something?" he asked in sign.
"What?" Dickson took the surfboard, stood it on its end and grinned at the youngster."You mean... ," the wide-eyed freckled lad continued, "the board? But what if the other guy wants to use it?"
"The `other guy' is you, Paul."
"Happy birthday." And with that, Dickson and Mick burst into a rather tuneless but nonetheless enthusiastic rendition of `Happy Birthday' to which Dickson added, "I know it's not today, mate, but why wait?"
"You mean... it's mine? This is my stick? To keep? I don't know what to say! This is awesome!"
"We figure you can use it at your local beach--no need to come here all the time, although you're always welcome, of course."
Paul took the board and leaned it against the wall before he threw his arms around Dickson's neck. "You're the bestest friend in the whole world!" Then he hugged Mick. "And you're the bestest too!"