Once again, Dickson raised the issue of confidentiality as he distributed 3 Cokes on the front verandah. "Don't you believe in keeping a secret?" he asked as the spiky mop popped his ring pull and guzzled the spilling brown foam.
"Depends. I reckon it's cool to tell your best friends a secret provided they don't tell anyone else."
"And what makes you think they, in turn, won't tell their best friends?"
"I don't get it. What's the point of a secret if you can't tell anyone? That's what best mates are for, right? Anyway, I think I know what this Doris business is all about."
"I saw your private investigator ad pinned to your notice board. The only problem is I don't know what you're investigating."
"We're not investigating anything," Dickson explained, "only the possibility of something."
"If it happens, you'll be the first to know."
"THAT'S NOT FAIR!"
"So what did Doris tell you?"
"That you guys are researching material for a project she's working on."
"So what's the project?"
"You're a persistent bugger." Dickson smiled, took a swig of Coke, then added: "Tellya what, Cody, since you're playing a role in this investigation, albeit a minor one, if Doris is willing to confide in you, then it's okay with Mick and me. But you'll need to ask her, not us. Meantime, when will you be visiting the bee farm?"
"Anytime," Cody shrugged. "Whenever you like."
Doris phoned Dickson later that evening to say she'd read the latest report and found the observations interesting. "However, at this point, all we have is evidence that Horace is disliked, and we knew that already. I'd hoped for something more... well, more definitive."
"Patience, my dear," Dickson laughed. "All in good time."
"By the way," Doris said, "Cody wants to know the full story. According to him, if it's alright with me, it's alright with you. Is that true?"
"What's your opinion?"
"I think there's a danger that his curiosity has the potential to lead to a mistaken belief, a wild guess, one that could be more hazardous than knowing the truth."
"I see--I take your point. I suppose if he's going to continue to act as our courier, it's only fair to involve him in the secret. However, your reports still need to remain confidential--I insist on that."
"No worries. Did Cody mention the bee farm?"
"Tony's farm? No."
"Cody said he'd take us there for a visit--he has an open invitation from Tony Spiropoulos."
"Tony? I don't think you need to worry about Tony, he's a good and special friend of mine."
"And what kind of friend is he to Horace?"
"Yes, of course, I take your point again, Dickson. You're quite the super sleuth for a blond himbo."
Dickson was still laughing as he ended the call on his cell phone, much to Mick's inquisitive frustration. "She called me a blond himbo."
"Hahahaha! She's a hoot! But she should have called you a blond hunk."
"C'mon, Dicko, are you blond or blind or both?"
After Mick left to return home, Dickson grabbed one of Simon's stubbies from the fridge and sat on the front verandah to contemplate the Fink case. However, he was unable to shake Mick's comment about his being a `blond hunk'. Hunk? I don't feel like a hunk, he thought to himself. Other guys are hunks, not me. I don't walk or talk or act like a hunk, so what the hell is Mick on about?
Dickson placed his beer on the floor and dashed inside to check the dictionary: Hunk: a large lump or portion. Nope, that didn't sound right: an attractive and usually well-built man.
Attractive? Seated once more on the canvas chair, with its 180 degree view of the night sky and ocean, with barely enough light to silhouette the headlands at each end of the long sandy stretch, Dickson took a swig of the beer. Attractive? To whom? Doris or Mick? Or both? If I am attractive, why is it that I'm not consciously aware of it? Why is it that I don't see myself that way? Or anyone else for that matter? Sure, Mike's a good looking guy. I know that. But I'm used to him, so I don't think of him that way. He's my china plate--my best mate.
Dickson remembered his comment to Cody as they ambled along the beach the other night: "Have you ever thought of just being yourself?" "Maybe I would if I knew what that was."
Just before daybreak next morning, Dickson paddled his board out to the backline to watch the sun rise. It was a regular occurrence for the blond youth who loved to witness the world truly at peace, when the stillness of dawn contrasted starkly with the noise and pandemonium that inevitably followed, as if the rising sun signalled the rest of the world to begin another day of chaos. Certainly, that was the message the gulls interpreted as their cue to resume squabbling. Otherwise, the only sound was the gentle lapping of the swell against Dickson's board, a sound that would soon surrender to the din of daylight.
"You're keen," Mick smiled as his mate arrived back from the surf. "You shower and I'll fix breakfast."
"Soft yolks," Dickson ordered, mindful of Mick's habit of turning egg whites into blackened crisps.
As the boys ate their sausage and fried eggs on toast, washed down with orange juice, Mick asked the blond why he regularly paddled out at dawn. "Perspective," Dickson replied. "It keeps things in perspective and, for some reason, it helps me to think clearly. There are no distractions."
"Apart from the occasional bronze whaler."
Dickson ignored his mate's sarcasm. "It's true, Mick, the world is sane for just 30 minutes, then the joint erupts into turmoil again."
"I've been thinking about the Fink case."
"You mean our only case, mate."
"It's like we're treating everyone we speak to as a potential murderer."
"I hadn't thought of it quite that way."
"Think about it, mate. That's the only reason we talk to those guys--because one of them is gonna give Horace the big heave-ho."
"So what do we do? Wait until Horace gets a one-way ticket to heaven and then investigate them? What's the difference between now and then?"
"I dunno--it's just that to be an investigator it's like you gotta treat the whole world with suspicion--you know, like everyone's guilty until proven innocent."
"You think too much."
"Do I? I'm not so sure about that, Dicko. I sometimes wonder how I'd feel if I thought I was being investigated for whatever."
"Like when your girlfriend's hands are down your pants?"
"Har-de-har. I don't have a girlfriend, nor do you."
"That's not the point."
"How come you mentioned a girlfriend?"
"It was meant to be hypothetical, Mick--even slightly humorous."
"Most blokes our age have girlfriends."
"Most blokes our age are sex maniacs."
"When was the last time you had sex?"
Dickson stood, stacked Mick's empty plate on top of his and headed to the kitchen. "You cooked so I'll wash the dishes."
"So?" Mick asked as he collected the empty glasses and followed the hunk inside.
"It's none of your business."
"I'm your best mate--best mates talk about that kinda stuff."
Dickson ran the hot water and squirted a little detergent into the sink. "This is private, right? A secret between you and me."
"I'm a virgin."
"Really?" Dickson exclaimed with obvious relief. "I didn't know that. I figured, well, you know, being who you are and the way you look and stuff like that..."
"The way I look?"
"Yeah. You look like you could have any girl you wanted."
"And you don't? C'mon, Dicko, you could snap your fingers anytime you wanted."
"I got a feeling I shouldn't snap them right now."
Mitre 10 hardware in Taree is a large shop that sells everything from nails and screws to power tools and timber, paint and brushes to gardening supplies and furniture. A large man with a shock of curly black hair approached the boys at the counter and asked how he may be of assistance. Right away, Dickson noticed the name tag on the man's shirt: Serge Vodkinski.
"We're shopping for a friend, actually. She needs a few things for the garden; fertilizer and stuff."
"I hope she doesn't plan to make a bomb," Serge laughed as he led the way to the gardening and nursery section. "It's funny, you know, almost everything we sell here could be used as a weapon of some sort--axes, hammers, knives, fertilizer, picks, you name it, and yet it's all perfectly legal! It's a world full of contradictions, mate. You know something, if I wanted to murder someone, I could use any one of a number of items here, return it to the shop after the deed, clean it, put it back on the shelf, and nobody would be the wiser. How's that for spooky?"
"Are you familiar with Doris Fink's garden? If you are, you'll know what kinda stuff she needs. We're not exactly gardening gurus, my mate and I."
"Doris Fink?" Serge stopped just short of the gardening section. "Yes, I know her place. What she needs, guys, is a few liters of weed killer to feed her husband. I'd happily help her do it. Listen guys, I'm sorry but I better get back to the counter. I'm afraid you'll have to make your own choices."
"By the way, how do you pronounce your name?"
"The way it's spelled." And with that, the man left the boys to their own devices.
"And what, may I ask," Mick inquired, "are we supposed to do with a whole bunch of gardening stuff?"
Later that afternoon, a delivery truck arrived at the beach house and unloaded a range of garden tools, a wheelbarrow, several bags of fertilizer and soil mixes, various potted plants and seedlings, a watering can and a new garden hose.
"Right," Mick said, hands on hips, "now all we need is a bottle of gray hair dye and a couple of walking sticks."
"Don't forget the slippers."