Detective Sergeant Rowles introduced himself and his partner to Dickson at the rear door of the beach house. "And this is detective Rocque. We believe Doris Fink was here yesterday," he said as he flashed his identification.
"Is anything wrong?"
"May we ask a few questions?"
Dickson invited the men into the kitchen where Mick was preparing breakfast. The morning paper lay on the table, still unopened. "What's this all about, sergeant?" Dickson asked as he offered the men a chair but they chose instead to stand.
"You haven't read the paper yet?"
"No--went for an early morning surf--just got back."
Rowles unravelled the newspaper and spread it on the table. "You're not aware of this?"
The large, bold letters leapt like black tiger paws from the page. "Dead? Doris is dead? But...?" Dickson, with Mick now at his side, scanned the headline and first few paragraphs of the front page. "Stung to death? She was here only yesterday... !"
"Do you recognize this?" Rowles produced an envelope from which he took Dickson's report. "This was in her bag."
"So you do recognize it. How well did she know Tony Spiropoulos?"
"They were friends--she had the key to the house."
"Do you know his whereabouts?"
"She didn't say--except that he's away for the week. Are you treating Doris' death as suspicious? Where was she?"
"In the front yard of the house. What was she wearing yesterday?"
"Uh... shorts, white shorts and a blue top--light blue. But it says here in the paper that she was found wearing a dark top... Dark clothing near bee hives? That doesn't make sense."
"Was she familiar with the behavior of bees?"
"I'm not sure--she had never visited the farm before--that's our understanding."
"What do you know of her perfume?"
"Her perfume?" Dickson related the story of the perfume according to what he'd learned from Horace and Doris. Mick then added his tale of the hovering bee the previous day at lunch.
"That would seem to match our forensic hypothesis."
"The bees were attracted by the perfume?"
"On the contrary, Mr. Bottoms--they were repelled by it and became aggressive--so it appears."
"But why detectives? Why not constables? Are you treating Doris' death as suspicious?"
"Do you have any knowledge of the current whereabouts of Horace Fink?"
"According to this report--the one you wrote for Doris--Horace expressed interest in buying this property."
"Not exactly `buy', but close enough. Anyway, I rejected his offer. Meantime, what does Horace have to do with Doris's death?"
"That's what we'd like to know, gentlemen. Thanks for your time Mr. Bottoms... Mr. Morris. If you think of anything further that might assist our investigation, please get in touch." Rowles placed his card on the table, then the two `suits' left the house and drove away.
"That's us out of a job," Mick commented as he returned to his cooking duties.
Dickson re-read the headline story in the paper. "I didn't realize you were so sensitive, Mick," he mumbled sarcastically. "Remember when Cody said he saw a book about bees on Horace's desk?"
Mick delivered two plates of scrambled eggs on toast to the table and sat opposite his mate. "Yeah, and bees featured in that video of Cody skinny dipping in the pool as well. So what are you thinking?"
"What if Horace understood that the perfume, to bees, was like a red rag to a bull? What if he was also aware of the friendship between Doris and Tony Spiropoulos?"
"What if, what if?"
"I think there might be a connection."
"Are you gonna share your suspicion with Rocque and Rowles?"
"Not yet. I'd like to speak to Tom Samuels first--according to this newspaper report he attended the scene afterward and gave Doris the last rites before the body was taken to the morgue."
"How did the Rev know she was there?"
Only a dozen or so faithful trickled from Our Lady of the Rosary church after mass on a regular weekday morning. Dickson and Mick waited outside the church for the Rev to appear at the door after the service. "I can guess what brings you boys here," he said as he shook their hands and invited them to the presbytery for tea. "Poor Doris--she didn't deserve to go that way, not that it matters now, of course. She's in Heaven at peace." Dickson sat at the kitchen table and remained silently respectful as the lads watched the Rev prepare the silver service and boil the water. "She had already passed away when I arrived after receiving the call."
"One would have thought that he would call emergency first, not me. I arrived before the police and ambulance--Horace was nowhere to be seen. Have you boys heard from him?"
"Not a word."
"Help yourselves to the sugar and milk, my friends, I can never remember those measurements. However, I do remember that Doris preferred lemon." The Rev. sat at the table, poured tea into his porcelain cup and stirred it. "It was rather eerie--she was dressed in black, almost as though she were in mourning."
"What did Horace say on the phone?"
"That Doris was dead. He asked me to phone emergency because his cell phone battery was low. I wasn't far from the farm at the time, on my way to visit a parishioner."
"And where was Horace when he called?"
"He didn't say."
"He wasn't at the farm?"
"He must have been--how else would he know about Doris? It's all very mysterious, my friends, and it appears that you are equally mystified. Have the police visited you? They asked about you." The Rev listened intently and with some surprise as Dickson related the events of that morning, and those of the previous day. "May the Lord forgive you," he said at last.
"Using me covertly for information. And now, if you'll pardon me, I have pastoral matters to attend to. I'll, no doubt, see you at the funeral service."
"Tom! That's not fair!"
"Isn't it? Not fair, private detective Bottoms?"
The boys rose from the table without finishing their tea, and headed for their bikes parked at the curb. "You should have given him a mouthful," Mick growled as they grabbed their helmets but Dickson was in no mood to comment. Upon arrival at the beach house, Dickson took to the surf and spent the rest of the morning seeking solace among the only friends he truly understood--the waves. One after the other they queued to greet him and to challenge him--providing an endless diversion from the world of madness that sought to confuse his mind and sadden his soul. Mick chose to surf nearby, but the two never spoke until they returned to the backyard shower hose.
"You wanna talk about Tom?" Mick began.
"This whole private detective thing sucks," was Dickson's abrupt reply.
Shortly afterwards, Cody appeared at the open verandah door. He explained that he'd skipped swim practice for the afternoon; that he was unable to focus on training. "I didn't know about Doris until I saw this morning's paper," he said. "Jesus, that kinda thing never happens to people you know--always to some stranger. Anyway, the Ds were around this morning asking questions--they wanted to know where Horace was. My mom noticed him yesterday--he and Doris drove away somewhere in the old Wolseley. My mom thought it was unusual `cause Doris was wearing dark clothing--like she was going somewhere formal or whatever."
"Have you seen Horace since?"
"Nope--car's not there either. That's not surprising, though, `cause he's always away somewhere on business or whatever."
"Do the cops know about the video?"
"They didn't mention it. Why? What's that got to do with Doris' death?"
Shortly afterward, Dickson and Mick parked their Suzukis at the side of Cody's house, away from the street. The spiky mop then used his spare key to enter the Fink house. After making sure the coast was clear, the two super sleuths jumped the fence, entered the Fink property, knocked at the door and were invited inside by Cody. "We should have a search warrant or something," Mick suggested but his partner scoffed at the idea.
"We're not breaking in, you dingaling, we're being invited by someone who has permission to be here."
As Dickson suspected, after a search of the ceiling, Cody reported that the video recorder attached to the spy camera was empty. In the meantime, Dickson inspected the books and magazines on Horace's desk. "This is interesting," he said, noting that the book about bees had the corner of a particular page folded inward: `Bee Sting Avoidance and Treatment' was the chapter title. "It seems Horace took a special interest in bee stings and what motivates bees to attack." Dickson replaced the book. "I'll get a copy from the library and read it."
Next stop was the Spiropoulos farm where the three boys inspected the dried mud of the driveway. "Fresh tire marks," Dickson noted, "most of them wide radials--undoubtedly tracks left by the cop cars, and some from Tony's Landcruiser. Ah! Here's the one I'm looking for!" Mick and Cody followed the direction of Dickson's pointed finger. "It's from a narrow cross-ply... I reckon it's a non-radial, 15-inch pressed-steel wheel. I remember the tread pattern on the Wolseley--all original, right down to the rubber."
"Horace must have driven Doris here in the Wolseley. But why?"
"Only one person can answer that question, my dear Watson."