'Ton Currie’s Randwick Adventure: a Racing Fabliau': extract

('TonCurrie'  is the second  story in the collection The Gambler's Ghost and 0ther Racing Oddities)

Fabliau: ‘a short, usually comic, frankly coarse, and often cynical tale in verse popular especially in the 12th and 13th centuries.’ (Merriam-Webster)

Villiers Stakes day 198_ broke gloriously fine, giving promise of a really stinking hot Sydney summer’s day. I exulted in the warmth of the sun on my face as I threw back the window curtains and smiled out on the world. Great beach weather, I thought, but even better conditions for a day at the races. In fact the prospect of the seaside was so good I suspected my girlfriend might make a strong case for Bronte or some other spot featuring surf and sand. She did too, but I parried cleverly, revealing I had a prior engagement with the big feller, Craig ‘Ton’ Currie, life-long chum and fellow racecourse idler, at 12 o’clock in the ‘Filly of the Year’ Bar, just south of the main bookies’ ring at Randwick racecourse. For some reason my girl has a soft spot for this hard-bitten favourite-fancier, so she gave me the all clear on the condition I drop her at the beach and pick her up after the last race. I okayed and set off down the stairs with the first load of beach provisions. Three laps later the job was done and the time was ten-thirty. I was keen to get trackside, so I went back to the flat and urged the woman to the car.
She turned to me on the stairs.

‘How much are you taking to the races?’ she demanded to know.

I offered the standard response of ‘Bugger all.’

‘Well, make sure you keep enough for dinner tonight. You promised. And I don’t regard a battered sav and a bag of soggy chips as dinner.

‘Yeah, sure I will,’ I responded as I coaxed the girl into the passenger’s seat, which at times is as tough as loading a seasoned barrier rogue into the starting stalls.

At last the car shot out into the avenue and we were soon making good time for the eastern suburbs. The Enforcer (my ironic nickname for my stable-mate, who is easy going on most matters) suggested that a little music would be jolly. In response I cranked the radio and turned the volume up. The co-pilot pulled a face as a voice bearing the unmistakeable twangy cadence of a racecaller spewed forth information on fastest times of the morning, late riding engagements, overweights and allowances, tongue ties on, tongue ties off, and similar scuttlebutt. She pressed one of the pre-set tuner buttons, then another, then another.

‘Lennie, these selector buttons aren’t working,’ the girl complained. ‘And the tuning knob is missing.’

The selectors worked fine, but they were all set on the racing station. And the tuner; not missing, but hidden away. The truth is if The Enforcer does have one fault it is an irritating tendency to change stations right in the middle of Three-Way Turf Talk and even, believe it or not, The Late Mail. I objected to this bolshie behaviour and had taken the corrective action described.

Naturally I wasn’t about to confess this, so I responded, ‘Fair dinkum? Jeez, I’ll have a look at it in the morning, darl.’ Another porky, I’m afraid, as fiddling with a radio was not among my plans for the Sabbath. I had in mind a recovery session with the lads at Picnic Point Bowlo.

We reached the coast at last. I jumped out and began to build a sort of cairn of beach supplies at the side of the road. I’ll bet Scott carted less stuff to the South Pole, and he had a team of dogs. I blew The Enforcer a not unaffectionate kiss (after all, she had given me the afternoon off) and immediately set a course for the Randwick races. They are only a few furlongs from Bronte and within the quarter hour I was striding freely towards the Alison Road entrance. I noted that the infield fountains were shooting plumes of spray that were being carried up the home straight by a gentle breeze. A cool gossamer collected on my upturned face. It was a treat on a hot day like this. I was turned out in the race goer’s customary midsummer strip; surfie singlet, Adidas short shorts, and rubber thongs. The only time my mates and I abandoned this outfit was when we scored a ticket to the members stand, as in fact ‘Dobber’ Dave had on this day. There coat and tie are compulsory. The main attraction of the members is the weight-for-age class birds attracted. There was a theory that if you got up there and flashed enough money about you could pick one up. However, despite numerous attempts, none of us had yet broken out of, or in to, maiden class.

Once I got on course I bought a race book and took the scratchings from the semaphore tower. I then walked through the concourse between the members and public stands to the top of the Paddock lawn. I breathed in deeply the fragrance of the roses and the rich aroma of newly mown grass. I loved Randwick in the high summer when the course had cast off the lush greens of spring for a Streetonian palette of gold and blue. Looking over my left shoulder, into the members, I could see that the barmen, resplendent in red mess jackets, were already struggling to meet the demands of the privileged inmates, who need defer to no-one when it comes to quaffing champers. In fact all around the course the race-day staff were busily laying on the catering they would require to slake the thirst and fill the stomachs of impatient punters, who would soon overrun the bars and temporary stalls like the Zulus did the British lines at Rorke’s Drift.

A heat haze was shimmering at the top of the home straight and I knew that to those punters watching the early races from the lawn it would appear, as the field came up the famous Randwick rise about 300 metres short of the winning post, that it was emerging from a broad sheet of water. It was bloody hot and I decided it was high-time to open the innings so I made for the nearest bar, which in those days was behind the Melbourne betting ring, and ordered a middy.

In defiance of the well-deserved and proverbial low public esteem for racecourse beer, this was one tasted terrific and I skolled it. I have post-modernist and relativist views on beer appreciation, and believe that how well it goes down is not a thing in itself, but largely depends on contextual factors—like how many of them you put away the night before. I immediately ordered another, which I drank more leisurely. At this point I was sharing the bar with just a couple of old fellows who looked like they might have been in long pants when Carbine won the Cup. All that would change in half an hour or so, when the joint would be heaving like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Black Friday.

I checked the time; it was ten to twelve, forty minutes before post time for the first in Sydney, and ten before I was due to meet Ton, who, if he ran up to his exposed form, would almost certainly arrive late. I immediately had thoughts of having a bet on Melbourne, due in five minutes, but I frowned as I noted that the first there was a steeplechase. The fact was I had sworn before several witnesses (including Ton) to never again dabble in this most hair-raising form of racecourse gambling, where every jump can be your last. However if I barred myself I would not have an opportunity to punt for half an hour, and I was by now dying to begin the bloody business of the day, so I knocked back the last of my beer and slipped into the adjacent Melbourne betting ring.

There was a horse running that, years before, had some ability on the flat. I decided that if it were able to stay upright it would almost certainly set the cross-country plodders it opposed something to catch and placed a small each-way bet with a bookmaker who was offering a few points better than his colleagues. That done I set off for the ‘Filly of the Year’ Bar, where I had arranged to meet Ton, and grabbed a good spot in front of the television. I was not out of earshot, however, of the Melbourne ring, and heard the unwelcome news that my horse had blown six points out to sixteen-to-one. Perhaps the horse’s connections had just discovered it was missing a leg; or realised that they had accidentally entered their nag in a jumping race. Anyway, I detected a lack of confidence in the camp.

I crossed my arms and braced myself as the race started moments later. I regained some measure of hope as my horse, the appropriately named Recidivist, came out quicker than chocolate eggs before Easter and was soon several lengths in front. He was twice as fast as the others on the flat. But as he stumbled over the first jump like a front-rower tripping over a bar stool at closing time, a suspicion formed that the Recidivist had the same ability to leap steeples as the Great Pyramid of Cheops does; a suspicion that was more-or-less confirmed at the second jump. He still led clearly out of the home straight, but by the back of the course the field had caught him. He struggled on for a few hundred yards more before he began to exit stage right, despite the demonstrations of his jockey, who was bouncing up and down in the saddle as though someone had slipped a joy-buzzer into the seat of his jodhpurs.

I turned away, disgusted, just in time to see Ton Currie, confounding the form students by turning up on time, entering the bar with purposeful strides, like John Wayne in the climatic scenes of Red River. I ‘oied’ at him and he stuck two fingers up at me; his mildly offensive and invariable form of greeting. Turning to the barman he cocked his wrist and used the same digits to order a brace of beers, armed with which he joined me at my table.

We called each other a bastard a few times in a matey way before I tried to take a peek at the Melbourne race without Ton noticing, just in time to see my horse throw the jockey at the jump near the 600 metres. In that moment of chagrin the mask fell and I let fly a volley of epithets at the horse while tearing my ticket.

Ton had witnessed all this and, not being completely obtuse, drawn some obvious conclusions.

‘Couldn’t help yourself, could you?’ he sneered. ‘Hopeless case, you are. Betting on bloody jumps races! What next? Gridiron? Miss Universe contests?’ And he made a series of noises that sounded like members of the ‘tisk, tisk, tisk’ family.

‘It’s my bloody money isn’t it?’ I reposted, which was moot, as I owed the nark a small sum at that time. The truth of it is there is a not cigarette paper between Ton and me in the betting for the ‘world’s unluckiest bloke’ stakes (although he once told me he was so unlucky he would even run second in that!) Certainly he has his methods and I have mine, but they’re equally effective in emptying bank accounts, so it’s a bit rich when he starts to bung it on as if he were Pittsburgh Phil.

We continued to glare at each other a bit, but the volatile situation was diffused by the realisation that both our glasses were empty. I at once remedied this and the unpleasantness was quickly forgotten.

The first race in Sydney was close. After consulting five or six form guides we made our picks and were mutually relieved we’d come up with different horses. Ton, as was his custom, was starting conservatively, with a small wager on a bottom-weight. This was in stark contrast with his behaviour towards the end of a day’s racing, when typically he would be unloading money like he’d discovered it had previously been in the hands of Typhoid Mary.

I liked the favourite and couldn’t get forty bucks on quickly enough, so we walked down to the main betting ring, jousted with a couple of bookies, and headed off to watch the race. I suggested the grandstand but we ended up on the grass in front of the course proper. I don’t know if there is a recognised clinical phobia for a morbid fear of climbing racecourse stairs, but anyway it is a condition with which Ton is stricken.

We arrived just in time to witness the start of the race. It didn’t prove to be a very eventful contest. Ton’s horse jumped out two lengths clear and by the post had all but doubled that margin, his jockey retaining a tight hold of the reins and exhibiting that annoying smugness so common among these runty types in victory.

My horse finished a long last. The young apprentice riding him came past hanging on grimly to the horse’s neck. It was clear that he had decided little more could be expected of him than to complete the race without falling off.

As we made our way back to the bar we were both pretty dirty on ourselves, I because of my culpable rashness, Ton due to his pusillanimous caution. Punters always torture themselves with such recriminations.

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'The Disappearance of Mervyn Goodyear, Gambler': extract

 ('Goodyear' is the first story in the collection
The Gambler's Ghost and 0ther Racing Oddities)

In the 1960s Mr Mervyn Goodyear was Sydney’s biggest racecourse gambler by the length of the Randwick straight. His betting plunges had put numerous bookmakers out of business and several over the cliff at The Gap. His luck in racing was a matter of awe and myth. He kept a string of racehorses, prepared by his private trainer, Dylan Hoyle, at Randwick, and, when one of them won the Sydney Jockey Club Derby in the late 1950s, Goodyear threw handfuls of bank notes from the steps of the official stand to the adoring two-bob punters who had gathered to cheer him. Everyone knew he was the owner of illegal gambling casinos in King’s Cross and ran the two-up racket in Sydney. It was believed Goodyear (an adopted name) had arrived in Sydney at the beginning of the Great Depression. His origins were unknown but he had an olive complexion that tanned easily; moreover he was lean and fit and sported a crooked grin and saturnine features that would not have disfavoured a Hollywood leading man. He was an icon of Sydney’s Tamarama Beach, to which he walked each morning in a pair of Casben swimmers, a beach towel flung rakishly over one shoulder. He regularly piloted a surf-ski north to Bondi, where he took a light breakfast at a beachside cafe, before paddling back to Tamarama, whence his chauffeur drove him to his mansion at Queen’s Park. That he had once, while strolling the Bondi promenade, saved a man from drowning, plunging into the surf as the struggling swimmer went down a third time, simply added to his mystique. His family was almost equally famous; his stunningly beautiful daughter, Chelsea, in particular, was a favourite subject of women’s magazines.

It was not surprising, then, when on a drizzly, foggy, mid-winter’s morning in 1968, Mervyn Goodyear failed to arrive at Bondi after having been seen entering the Tamarama surf on his ski board at his customary hour of 6am, the city’s newspaper presses stopped. Editors knew it meant the job of he whose paper was last to get the story on the street. Businessmen gathered in the city’s pubs, clubs and commercial temples to discuss the sensation. When exhaustive searches by the police and squadrons of volunteers failed to find any trace of him by dark that afternoon, one of Goodyear’s sons read a statement that acknowledged his beloved sea appeared to have claimed him. A coroner’s inquest was delayed, but was expected to conclude the same.

Meanwhile the city’s oracles speculated on Goodyear’s fate. The most obvious explanation, of death by drowning, was scorned by most as too mundane an end for the larger-than-life gambler; anyway, it was pointed out, he was a champion swimmer, having in his youth given ‘Boy’ Charlton start and beatings at the Domain baths. Similarly derided were suggestions that he might in his paddling exertions have had a heart attack. A bizarre rumour spread that first day that a secret society of Sydney’s Chinese rails bookmakers known as The League of Vengeful Crayons had paid Asiatic pirates to pluck Goodyear from his board while doubling the point between the beaches. He had been shanghaied, the story went, to a life of servitude behind the Bamboo Curtain.

Also approved by addicts of sensationalism was media scuttlebutt that Goodyear, known as a ‘shark baiter’ for swimming alone far from shore, might have ‘provided the day’s rations for one of the finny denizens of the deep,’ as the city’s leading scandal sheet indelicately put it.

This shark theory seemed to be confirmed when next day half of Goodyear’s ski-board, which bore the red, blue and white colours of his racing silks, washed up on the rocky promontory of Mackenzie’s Beach south of Bondi. Close examination found that several large serrated teeth were embedded in the board, a few inches below its torn mid-section. The tabloid press immediately blamed a grey nurse shark. However, when the ski-board was rushed to the famous Taronga Zoo on the north shore of Sydney Harbour Sir Bonnor Coppertone, the Park’s world-renowned ichthyologist, identified the teeth as those of the species Galeocerdo Cuvier, better known to a selachophobian public as the villainous tiger shark.

*          *          *         *          *

Mr Rod Gallagher, young betting supervisor of the Sydney Jockey Club, who had until recently occupied a similar position with the North-western racing district, followed developments in the Goodyear case with a combination of professional interest and man-on-the-street mawkishness. He had met Goodyear through his racecourse betting activities, and while he acknowledged the savoir faire of the eastern suburbs socialite that charmed race goers in the public enclosures, he had found him surprisingly highly strung. Whenever he had shaken hands with Goodyear his palm was moistened with sweat. He had also noticed a facial tremor above Goodyear’s left eyebrow, as though he had a nervous tic. Goodyear’s anger when this disfigurement occurred was palpable.

Ten days after the disappearance of Goodyear, Gallagher received a call from the Jockey Club’s secretary, Wing Commander George Rowe, inviting him for a weekly catch-up chat. It was a non-race day for Sydney and its provincial racecourses, so Gallagher had no pressing duties, and he had been occupying himself by plotting on graph paper some recent betting trends on Sydney races. He grabbed his pipe and hat and started eagerly for Rowe’s cosy office, which had the advantage on his of a fireplace.

As Gallagher entered he found the Club’s chief stipendiary steward, Jim Forbes, in one of the two visitors’ chairs. There were handshakes between the three senior employees of the Club; Gallagher had quickly formed firm friendships with the others. While Gallagher filled his pipe from Rowe’s tobacco jar, the three discussed the previous Saturday’s racing, which had been a typical low key mid-winter meeting. Goodyear’s sudden exit from the daily life of the City the previous week had been the foremost subject of conversation on track, displacing the usual hard-luck stories and form discussion. Gallagher observed how the racing on the Saturday two weeks ago (or ten days before the disappearance of Goodyear) had been similarly unremarkable, with the exception of an incident in the Welter Handicap, which had involved, as it happened, one of the Goodyear stable.

‘You’ll recall, Jim, that I also found the market fluctuations on the welter very unusual.’

Rowe raised an eyebrow as he sought to start his pipe with a series of vicious draws. ‘I was away that meeting. I don’t remember reading anything about the welter in the stewards’ reports, when catching up.’

‘Almost nothing out of the ordinary happened in the run,’ said Forbes in response. ‘Certainly we took no action.’

‘Nevertheless you’ve whet my interest. What did you see in the betting, Rod? And what was this “almost nothing” you mention, Jim?’

‘As to the latter,’ continued Forbes, ‘it’s quick to tell. “Spongy” Miller, who was riding Solander, Goodyear’s horse that started favourite and finished second, dropped his whip going past the Leger stand. A track attendant picked it up and returned it to him in the birdcage after the race. As I said—nothing, really; I recall a similar incident of a jockey dropping his whip a few months ago.’

Gallagher looked up. ‘What day was that, exactly?’

‘I don’t remember. I think it was before you started here. Why?’

‘Oh, just curious. As to the betting on that welter, George; the market opened with a very small percentage in favour of the bookmakers and ended with a very large one. This is exactly the opposite to the usual course of betting on a race. I’ve been wondering what was different about this one. What could it mean? A coincidence, too, it should occur in the same race that the jockey on the favourite drops his whip in finishing second.’ 

Rowe suspended his pipe an inch from his lips, and then cocked the mouthpiece at Forbes.

‘Does Miller win the race if he retains his whip?’ he asked.

Forbes pulled a pained expression. ‘Gee, I hate hypothetical questions like that!’

Gallagher laughed. ‘How did you end up a steward? Isn’t it your job to adjudicate on racing’s great “what ifs”?’

‘Yes come on, Jim; does he win or doesn’t he?’ Rowe persisted.

Forbes sighed. ‘What it comes down to, I suppose, is how much hard riding with the whip affects the outcome of a race. You know that varies from one jockey to another, and one horse to another. And some of these welter greybeards have been around as often as the collection plate at St Mary’s, and are as cunning as outhouse rats, what’s more.’

‘I know this horse of Goodyear’s, Solander, well. It must be stood over to do its best,’ Gallagher asserted. ‘I say it wins a half if Miller has his whip at the post.’

‘Well, you may be right,’ Forbes conceded. ‘Actually, it’s not that uncommon for a jockey to drop his whip. There is no lanyard on the grip. Some use a rubber-band around the wrist as a precaution but most just take the odds to it.’ He chuckled. ‘You’ve read in the papers I suppose this talk about Goodyear being abducted by The League of Vengeful Crayons?’

 ‘Is it just talk?’ Gallagher asked.

‘“Vengeful Crayons”?’ Rowe repeated. ‘What in heaven’s name is that? It sounds like something from a Charlie Chan movie.’

Forbes laughed again. ‘Someone is spreading the story that a while back some bookies formed a secret society to get rid of Goodyear, who they reckon had more luck on the punt than they cared for. Rumour has it that old Harry Sing and his Chinese cobbers in the Paddock are the principals. A lot of rot, of course. Here George, here’s a paragraph in last week’s Globe about it. The ironic thing is my sources assure me that Goodyear, far from killing the ring, is into several leading books for north of a million.’

‘The betting ledgers don’t tell me that,’ responded Gallagher, in surprise.

‘Pah! You know that far from every bet laid by a licensed bookmaker is recorded in a ledger. Despite his reputation, it seems Goodyear has been losing for some time. I have it on good authority that he lost 250 large on his two-year-old Syntax Lad in the Sires’ Produce.’

Gallagher whistled. ‘That’s definitely not in the books.’

Forbes smiled. ‘It was laid as a mixture of unregistered on-course bets and SP commissions, I’m told.’

‘This puts Goodyear’s disappearance in a different light,’ said Rowe. ‘Rather than being a godsend for the bookmakers, it’s Goodyear—or rather, his estate—that stands to benefit, as the honouring of credit bets cannot be pursued in court. Frankly, the Jockey Club chairman and the Board are sick of the whole Goodyear connection with racing—the big bets on tick, the illegal casinos, and now all this gossip about what’s become of him. They believe it is reflecting very badly on the sport. Not that this is the first time, as we three know, that racing has copped a horseshoe in the eye recently. What the Board wants, in fact, is an assurance that Goodyear’s racing colours are never again carried on a Sydney racecourse; in his interests, his family’s or anyone else’s. They’ve asked me to take the matter up. They’re getting flak from the state government. It’s the old threat; of replacing the Club’s governance of racing with a statutory authority.’

Forbes shrugged his shoulders. ‘Has the Board given you any riding tactics? You are aware that Dylan Hoyle is still racing Goodyear’s horses for the family?’

‘Yes, I am. No, they’ve given me no instructions and frankly I’ve no idea where to start. What about you, Jim, you’re an old cop, what steps would you recommend?’

‘Bloody careful ones! I’ve been kicked up the backside many times for upsetting big shots with investigations like this.’

‘I know where I’d start if it were me running the case,’ said Gallagher carelessly. ‘With Sir Bonnor Coppertone. The ichthyologist—the shark expert. He identified the teeth in Goodyear’s ski as a tiger shark’s.’

‘What’s he got to do with the price of flake?’

‘Hmm. Did you see him on the news after Goodyear’s disappearance? No? Well, if that interview were a barrier trial I’d be tipping he left quite a bit up his sleeve for race-day. He knows more than he let on. There was something he said about sharks—I don’t know, it almost rang a bell—the shark bell, you might say—but I can’t quite grasp the significance of it.’

‘What do you know about sharks, if it comes to that?’ Forbes asked, biting into a scone.

‘It might surprise you. Unlike some in the room, not all my reading material is delivered by the paperboy. Sharks are an interest of mine. As it happens, Coppertone’s famous book, Nasty Sharks, is next to my bed. If this were my case,’ Gallagher repeated, ‘I’d be jumping on a ferry to Taronga Zoo for a word with the erudite Sir Bonnor.’

‘Why don’t you then?’ Rowe suggested. ‘Frankly, you would be doing me a favour. Give me something to report to the chairman, at least.’

‘Are you serious? On what pretext? I’m not the police. I’m not even the club secretary or detective. I’m the humble betting supervisor, just three months into the job.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll swear you in as a deputy racecourse detective,’ Rowe half-joked. ‘That’s a point, though; have the police interviewed Coppertone?’

Forbes reached for the telephone. ‘Let’s find out,’ he said. He dialled a number and held a quick conversation. ‘That was my contact at CIB,’ he said as he hung up. ‘He says they’ve interviewed Coppertone. Says he clammed up again. He confirmed that the teeth he extracted were definitely a tiger shark’s, that’s all.’

‘Maybe the police lack the affinity with the fellow and his work our young friend here demonstrates,’ said Rowe. ‘I wonder if they would mind Rod speaking with Coppertone?’

‘I picked that,' replied Forbes. ‘My CIB man says go ahead, Rod. But be warned. Coppertone’s a cranky old bugger, he says. Anyway, it’s all arranged. Coppertone will be expecting you at the zoo aquarium.’

‘Hey, I was only thinking aloud,’ Gallagher protested. ‘Still, I admit that I am curious, and Coppertone is a man I admire. Maybe I’ll ask him to autograph my copy of his book. What the heck? But I’d better go now, before I come to my senses.’

As Gallagher rose, Forbes said gruffly, ‘Two sets of eyes are better than one, Rod. Why don’t you take—let’s see, who’s in the office today? Well yes, why don’t you take young Corcoran with you?’

Gallagher feigned a frown. Roy ‘Corky’ Corcoran was a recent cadet steward recruit. He was the nephew of the wife of the club’s chairman, Sir Lawrie Facey. Whether that explained how he’d got his position, it was probably why he had kept it, for his adverse impact on the affairs of the Club had been disproportionate with his brief time in the job. At first on race days his task was to run the race patrol films from the cameraman’s box to the stewards’ room below the members stand, but twice he had been found loitering in the Melbourne betting ring, when the films were wanted urgently for protest hearings. After that he was banished to the stewards’ tower near the turn into the back straight, where it was assumed he could not cause much trouble, even if contributing little, but on his second day he almost burnt the structure to the ground when he flicked an illicit ‘Craven A’ cigarette (which he consumed like jelly beans) into a pile of hay, when he had unexpectedly spotted the hat of the deputy chief steward, O’Leary, at the top of the tower ladder.

But if Corcoran’s superiors had little idea what to do with him on race days, they were at their wits’ end how to occupy him in the office between meetings. Ignoring each of the menial tasks that were found for him, he divided his time between shooting spit balls at the other junior, articled to the handicapping department next door, and chatting up the pretty receptionist in the foyer.

Corky fancied himself a ladies’ man. He had little long-term interest in a career as a steward—it would have meant giving away the punt (to which he was even more addicted than ‘Craven As’), as stewards are forbidden to bet. But he fancied the dress-style, which reminded him of the detectives in the series Homicide on television.

Gallagher’s frown became a grin. He guessed Forbes craved the cadet steward out of his hair a few hours. But Jim was a good mate and anyway, Rod didn’t mind the kid; in fact, he was good for a laugh.

‘Okay,’ he said. ’Got any other delinquent staff you’d like me to babysit for the afternoon?’

‘I am trying to broaden the lad’s interests beyond long shot winners and girls,’ Forbes protested. ‘Come on, I’ll bet he’s out in reception watching Judy crank the roneo machine. We’ll pick him up, and I’ll drop you both down at the Quay for the ferry.’

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