Most aircraft accommodated at Taree airport are small private planes. The terminal, a single story brick building, is no larger than a couple of average houses. Dickson and Mick parked their bikes at 7:45am and entered the reception area, where they helped themselves to coffee from the dispenser machine. A balding man, whose remaining black hair was carefully but conspicuously combed across bare scalp, sat next to his suit case and hand luggage.
"G'day," Dickson smiled as the boys sat beside the man, "nice morning for a flight."
"We're waiting for a friend to arrive from New Zealand."
"New Zealand? That's where I'm headed... on business. Have you been there?"
"No. Actually, I've never been outside of Oz."
"I travel a lot... mostly business."
"Entrepreneurial... nothing in particular, and everything in general. I'm basically an investor. However, I am trying to market an invention of mine," the man said as he produced a small bottle from his black leather briefcase. "I've got others--you can keep that one and give it to your girlfriend."
"Perfume? Does it have a name?"
"Not yet. I'll leave that to the marketing gurus once I get commercial interest... if I get commercial interest. It seems the last thing the world needs right now is another new perfume. My wife wears it and loves it. By the way, my name is Horace."
The boys introduced themselves. "You must be Horace Fink--we've heard about you."
"You're famous around these parts."
"You mean infamous," Horace laughed. "Are you boys locals?"
"I live out of town," Dickson explained, "just north of Old Bar in a beach shack."
"The old weatherboard house right on the beach? The one on the dirt road? Well, well, well, what a coincidence, I've had my eye on that old house as an investment--not the house itself, but the property. Do you rent it?"
"Own it. My gran left it to me."
"Own it?" Horace's attention was diverted by an announcement that his flight was ready to board. "Must go, great to meet you young blokes. I'll contact you when I return in about a month."
As the boys watched the man carry his bags out to the tarmac, Mick shook his mate's hand. "You're a genius, Dicko, a bloody genius."
Outside the terminal, parked next to the Suzukis, was a 4WD van with `Swan Vi' painted on the side. The open sliding door covered what the lads assumed to be `deo Productions'. A short, stocky man stood at the open side door and greeted Dickson and Mick as they approached. "Got a spare minute?" the man asked. "My offsider's running late and I could use a hand to carry this stuff into the terminal."
Dickson took the large tripod while Mick carried a heavy metal box. The man elected to take care of the Sony broadcast camera, which appeared to be worth a lot of money. After locking the van, the three entered the airport building. "Outside on the viewing platform," the man beckoned as the boys followed. Once the equipment was placed on the platform, the man thanked his helpers and shook their hands. "Simon," he smiled. "Simon Swan. I owe you blokes a beer."
"I'm Dickson Bottoms and this is my mate, Mick Morris. Can we help you unpack?"
"She's right, mate, my offsider should be here soon. You guys fly in from somewhere?"
"Nope, just checking out the scene. We had coffee with a bloke who's on his way to New Zealand... Horace Fink."
"Fink? You friends of his?"
"Just met him."
"Well, don't meet him again. That bloke is bad news in big flashing neon letters. He got me all fired up about a television project one time, then backed off. Asshole."
"He seemed pleasant enough."
"Oh, yeah, `seem' being the operative word. He's a bloody crook... a user."
"So what's the story here? Are you making a film or something?"
"Corporate video. A bloke with a couple of Cessna Caravans runs a cargo operation."
"You fellas ever been in a video production suite before?" The boys shook their heads. "Tell you what," Simon said as he handed Dickson his business card, "ring me later and drop in for a beer or two, and I'll show you how to make movies."
"Cool! That'll be fascinating! Thanks a stack, Mr. Swan."
As the boys swung a leg over their respective Suzuki saddles, Mick reached over and shook his mate's hand. "Two birds with the one stone, mate!"
"Yep, a Fink and a Swan!"
Following a late breakfast, Dickson sat at the computer and wrote another report, to which he would add the result of their meeting with Swan later that afternoon.
"We're making progress," Mick commented as his friend saved the document.
"Are we? If Fink was murdered today, who would you suspect as the culprit?"
"Someone in New Zealand," Mick laughed. "Yeah, you're right. Everyone we've spoken to so far hates the guy but as to the means, motive and opportunity, I guess that's still pretty vague. Anyway, if this investigation reaches a stage where we feel pretty strongly about a suspect, will you tell the cops?"
"Tell the cops what? A murder is not a murder until it happens, mate. Besides, that's a decision I'll leave to Doris."
"What's your feeling about her? If she's the sole beneficiary of Fink's will, that kinda points a finger at her. Yeah? How about this scenario: she hires a hit man to kill her husband. The hit man disappears interstate or overseas. Then she uses the evidence we've uncovered to blame an innocent party."
"Interesting scenario, my dear Watson. But I think you're getting a little carried away."
"You think so? Anything's possible, Sherlock."
The converted shopfront at Cundletown bore no signage or evidence of what lay behind the plain façade. However, the 4WD painted with Swan Video Productions was parked half way down a long drive to one side of the shop, with its attached residence at the rear. The entrance was at the side of the building. Dickson's finger stabbed the button. Above the guests was a small security video camera. The lock clicked and a voice through a small intercom invited them to enter.
"I'm just making coffee," Simon said as he led the lads through to the rear kitchen. "It's a special blend I picked up in Papua. Looks like mud but tastes like heaven. Anyway, I figured you guys might not want to drink beer if you're riding your bikes. I bought a dozen stubbies you can take home with you."
The group took their coffees to the front of the building; the old shop. "I picked this place up for a song," the host explained, "then converted the old shop front into a studio." To the boys, the studio resembled something from a Star Wars spacecraft; knobs, dials, flashing lights and dozens of electronic gizmos all lit softly, and even somewhat romantically, by special concealed lighting. Each of the four walls was carpeted in light gray while the ceiling was fitted with white acoustic tiles. Mounted high at either side of the console area hung giant speakers supplemented by a smaller pair on a shelf above several video monitors.
"No tape recorders?"
"It's all digital, mate. I keep a couple of old betacams for editing older stuff or transferring analogue to digital--other than that, it's all zeros and ones." Simon pointed to a smaller room that featured a large window overlooking the studio. "That used to be the shop cool room. Now it's a voice-over booth. So what do you blokes reckon? Flash or what?"
"Awesome. No signage out front?"
"It's not open to the public, mate, and I don't want any loonies to know there's a fortune in electronics here. Now, let me show you guys how I drive this thing."
Footage of the airport was immediately recognizable to the lads, however they were somewhat bored by the laborious and repetitive process involved in editing. At one stage, when it seemed appropriate, Dickson asked if Simon had the pilot of Barbara Thorne's television concept.
"You want to see it?" Half an hour later, Simon asked his guests what they thought of the idea.
"I'm no expert," Dickson admitted, "but it looks as good as any other show on TV."
"Better," Simon insisted, "but it's old hat now--been around too long. We missed the boat because of that asshole Fink and his fucking indecision and dilly dallying. Let me give you a bit of advice, my friends, whatever you do in life, stay away from the television business. It's full of wannabes and experts who wouldn't know if their asses were on fire. And back stabbers! Oh, yeah, don't forget the back stabbers."
"So why are you still in the business?"
"It's all I know, mate--that and scuba diving. I shoot a lot of underwater stuff--that's what I did in Papua--footage of World War 2 submerged aircraft. Besides, I'm in my fifties so it's too late for a career change. And let me tell you something else. Barbara's concept was my ticket to wealthy retirement but Fink fucked that good and proper. Opportunities like Barbara's only come along once in a blue moon. I could kill that mongrel Fink bastard."
Back at the beach house, the lads noticed Cody's board missing from the front verandah. Then they saw a lone surfer on the back line--the only invitation they needed to hit the waves.
Two hours later, as the sun hung low on the western horizon, three fit and bronzed teens, carrying their sticks under their arms as they trotted up the beach, provided a spectacle the glossy tourist mags would deem an idyllic Aussie scene.
Dickson had rigged a hose supported by a pole in the front yard, under which the surfers showered. "That was a bitching session," Cody enthused. "You guys are awesome."
"You were pretty awesome yourself, mate. You wanna hang for a bit? I've got another envelope for Doris."
"I wish you guys would tell me what's going on with all this shit. She gave me some lamo line yesterday about it but I don't believe her--not for a second."
"What did she tell you?"
"Hey, I'm not that dumb ya know. It's confidential hehe. So, here's the deal guys, you tell me what this whole thing is all about and I'll tell you what she told me. Fair enough?"