Doris Fink insisted that Dickson's report not be sent by email or any means other than hand-delivered. Security and privacy were the main issues. She suggested that the boys arrange to meet Cody Callaghan, her neighbor, who would deliver the envelope when `the coast was clear'. "And," she added, "print the report on plain paper--no letterhead, no signatures, nothing that might implicate you in the case. Oh, and turn up in your regular beach `uniform' so as not to encourage any local gossipers."
Just after school hours, the two Suzukis came to rest outside No. 41. "Don't even glance at No. 39," Dickson ordered as the pair alighted from their chariots and then proceeded down the path to the front door, which was answered by a mop of black spiky hair wearing a towel around its waist. "G'day, guys," the mop grinned just before the towel unexpectedly unravelled and dropped to the floor. The teen retrieved it, tossed it over his shoulder, and invited the visitors to follow him to the rear kitchen. "I'm just making some toasted peanut butter sangers. You want some?"
"Thanks all the same, but we're not hungry."
"I'm Cody Callaghan," the host said, tossing the towel over a nearby stool and then pouring three juices. "You must be the guys Doris told me about--Dickson and Mick. Right? You're surfers by the look of it. So what's this all about?"
"What did Doris tell you?"
"Not much, just that you guys were gonna deliver an envelope. But she's home right now, so..."
"No, we can't do that," Dickson interrupted as he reached for the envelope in the back pocket of his board shorts.
Cody read the wording on the front. "Strictly confidential--but it doesn't have a name on it."
"Doesn't need one, right?"
"Guess so. Are you guys going for a wave? You're not exactly dressed for the Prom. Actually, I wouldn't mind going to the Prom naked but I reckon I'd raise a few too many eyebrows."
"And that's not all," Mick laughed. "Last time I saw something like that was at the zoo."
As the conversation continued, and the fruit juices disappeared, Cody discovered that Dickson owned the old beach house just north of Old Bar. "I know that place," he enthused, "yeah, that is so cool, man. I'd kill for a place of my own like that. Wow, that seriously rocks big time! I don't suppose..."
Cody threw a leg over the pillion seat of Dickson's Suzuki and adjusted his surfboard under his arm so that it didn't interfere with the bike's steering, before the trio headed for the beach house.
Following quite a number of `Oh, man, this is sooooo cools' from the mop of spiky black hair, the boys sprinted down the sand and into the blue Pacific where they enjoyed two hours of `bitching' surf.
"I'm impressed with your airs and floaters," Dickson remarked as the lads headed back to the house. "You sure know how to handle that stick."
"Thanks, I thought you guys were pretty cool as well."
"How about a Coke before I take you back home?"
All three took turns to shower under the front-yard hose, then sipped their chilled colas on the verandah. Dickson's patient endeavor to subtly steer the conversation around to the Finks eventually proved successful.
"Doris is totally cool. I know she peeks through the Venetians when I skinny dip in her pool," Cody laughed. "Maybe Horace does too."
"What's he like?"
"Hard to say, he's away a lot of the time on business. My dad doesn't like him--says he's totally stuck up. They used to be good mates."
"They say it was the lottery win."
"Some of my dad's mates who used to be mates of Horace, and some other peeps I do odd jobs for around the `hood."
"And what do you think?"
Cody shrugged. "I really don't know the bloke so I guess I don't think much at all, except..."
"If he did anything to hurt Doris I'd kill him."
"From what I hear around the `hood, I'd need to get in the damn queue."
"Have you ever spoken to him?"
"One time he asked why I wasn't embarrassed to swim naked, so I asked him what there was to be embarrassed about. He said, `If you were me, you wouldn't ask that question'."
"What did he mean by that?"
"Not sure, maybe he's got a little willie or something. In any case, I reckon there's something that bothers him, like a compy or whatever."
"Complex. I guess he figures his money compensates for that--he's always on about possessions and that kinda shit. His pool is like something outta Hollywood."
"Is that the only conversation you've had with him?"
"Why the interest in Horace? Does it have something to do with that letter you gave me?"
"I get the feeling that Horace likes me, not that he says so or anything. It's just a feeling--you know--like when you really like someone but you can't find the words to express it, or you're afraid they'll take it the wrong way or whatever."
Cody's comment had a noticeable effect on his hosts, who glanced at each other momentarily in silent communication. "Anyway, guys," he continued, "it's been a wicked arvo, and thanks for the Coke, but I gotta hit the books. I'm still at school you know. I hope I get another invitation to rock over here. It's just soooo damn cool! And so are you guys."
As Cody was delivered to his house, he remembered the two jars of honey, which he gave to Dickson. "They're from Doris... she knows a local bee farmer. It's delicious!"
Shortly before dinner, Doris visited the Callaghan house to retrieve the envelope. She checked the seal and saw that it was unbroken. The Callaghans invited her to stay for supper but she declined. "Another time perhaps, Horace is due home any minute now."
Later in the evening, Dickson answered his cell phone. The caller was Doris Fink. "Very interesting report," she said. "It's amazing what people will tell you that they daren't tell me. By the way, did you give young Cody the third degree?"
"He said you peek at him through the Venetians when he skinny dips in your pool."
After quite a long pause, Doris responded, obviously shocked and embarrassed. "Oh, my God! He did not, did he? Oh, my God! How can I face that boy again? Oh, my Gooooooooood! This is so incredibly embarrassing!"
"Chill out, Doris. He thinks it's funny. Besides, that young bloke has a lot going for him and I don't blame anyone for noticing."
"Peeking through the Venetians is not simply `noticing', Dickson. It's practically criminal!"
"Do you think if the shoe were on the other foot, and you were the one skinny dipping, that he wouldn't also peek through the Venetians?"
Following a short interlude, Doris responded: "You're quite right, Dickson, thank you very much," she chuckled. "You're a very insightful lad. Who's next on your list?"
"Reverend Samuels, but I hardly think that a man of the cloth is capable of murder."
"Perhaps not, however, he might be able to provide valuable information in relation to others on the list."
Dickson and Mick arrived at Our Lady of the Rosary church, Taree, just as the Rev. Tom Samuels delivered the end of his booming Sunday morning sermon:
And I say to you, brethren, if there be any among you who has given scandal, I will endeavor this day to convince him of the evil he has done, that he may bewail it, and guard against it for the future. I will show, in the first point, the great displeasure the sin of scandal gives to God; and in the second, the punishment which God threatens to inflict on the authors of scandal!
"Bloody hell," Mick whispered as the boys took a pew at the rear of the grand church, "he must've gotten a sign from Heaven that we were coming."
The boys also quickly realized that board shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts emblazoned with surfing graphics were not generally suitable attire for Sunday Mass.
"Good morning my dear chaps," the rotund Samuels beamed--with cheeks as shiny as his bald dome--at the front steps of the church after the service. "I don't remember seeing you here before. Are you new to the parish?"
"Uh, no, not really. We heard about your sermons mister, uh, Reverend ... sir."
"Yeah," Mick agreed, "and all that fire and brimstone stuff. Pretty impressive, I reckon--enough to make a bloke shake in his boots."
"Boots?" Samuels asked as he studied the boys' footwear.
"Figuratively speaking, heh."
"At least your nails are clean...must be all that surfing. I've never surfed. I'm sure if I turned up at the beach, the environmentalists would roll me out to sea." Following a moment of awkwardness, the Reverend added, "Don't look so serious, my dear chaps, I'm not all fire and brimstone you know. Besides, I rather enjoy all that pulpit melodrama. It allows my thespian side to terrorize the congregation. Now what can I do for you?"
"Do? Oh, yes... do. Uh, well we're kinda curious about that scandal thingy in the sermon. You said you would endeavor this day to..."
"Are you guilty of the sin of scandal?"
Mick and Dickson momentarily searched each other's eyes. "That, Reverend, is what we'd like to find out."
"Let's have a cup of tea in the presbytery. Do you like English Parlor Royal blend? And call me Tom--I'm only referred to as the Reverend Samuels when I bellow."