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 racegoers 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.’
* * * * *
It was a cold winter’s day on the harbour. As the zoo ferry left the dock Corky spotted a group of schoolgirls standing by the rail at the bow. He let out a soft wolf whistle, straightened his tie and tilted his hat low on his brow, and sauntered over.
‘Might I interest you young ladies in complimentary tickets to the members stand—and a place on my arm—for the races this Saturday?’
Several of the girls, whose uniforms were of an exclusive school located on the middle reaches of the harbour, turned in Corky’s direction, and taking on board his splendid appearance, giggled immoderately.
'Oh, my mums would never allow me to go to the races; especially not with a young man,’ the prettiest one among them said.
‘Now, sweetheart, I’m sure you get up to lots your old lady never hears about—am I wrong?’
This sally prompted further tittering.
‘I promise you a corker afternoon,’ continued Corky, warming to his work. ‘I’m a steward for the Jockey Club, you know—incredible but true, gorgeous—’
At this point Gallagher emerged from below decks carrying a coffee. Corky had leapt onto a crate in order to play to as many of the girls as possible, and they were gazing up at him, like spellbound punters round Bill Porterhouse’s betting stand, Gallagher thought.
'Could I have a word, cadet-steward Corcoran?’ he asked.
If Corky found this interruption, or the reference to his subaltern status, deflating, he gave no hint of it. ‘Well, duty calls, ladies. Share these business cards out. If any of you dolls fancy an afternoon on the turf—yeah?—give me a ring by final acceptances Thursday—that’s eleven in the morning to you, sweetheart.’
‘Try to control your mating urges, will you, kid?’ pleaded Gallagher as they walked away. ‘Or if you can’t, don’t identify yourself as an official of the Jockey Club. It’s a respected body in this town—or it was, until you came along.’ He chuckled in spite of himself. ‘Though crikey, Corky, you don’t muck around! They’d hardly pulled the gang plank and you were chatting those girls!’
‘No good waiting for the tide to come in. By the way; how close are we going to get to these sharks at the zoo? I don’t fancy noahs at all.’
‘As they generally don’t get about on land, so long as you don’t fall into the pool you should be okay. I’m not planning to interview Coppertone in a shark cage, if that’s what you mean.’
Gallagher’s wry comments almost proved prophetic. Having entered the zoo from the harbour-side gate, he and Corky walked up to the old art deco aquarium. They found Sir Bonnor Coppertone feeding fish to Skipper I and Skipper II, the zoo’s iconic grey-nurse-shark mascots. As he surged past Gallagher, intent on beating his superior to shake the great man’s hand, Corky stumbled over a bucket of fish hidden by a low table. He fell forward onto a fence at about hip height and almost overbalanced into the pool. His face was pale when he regained equilibrium.
‘You needn’t worry,’ said Sir Bonnor, as he helped Corky away from the poolside. ‘The skippers would not harm you.’
‘Whadaya mean?’ asked Corky. ‘They’re blood-thirsty man-eaters, aren’t they?’
‘Nonsense. They are grey nurse sharks. My revisionist research has proved they are completely harmless to man. Their undeserved reputation as man-eaters is due entirely to the indolence of the Sydney press, which rather than investigate attacks properly, relies on “facts” recycled from old articles they drag from the newspaper library morgue.’
Corky dashed down the steps to the underwater observation deck. The sharks swam past him in a leisurely manner, their front teeth protruding from their mouths in what to him seemed a very sinister manner.
‘I don’t know about harmless, Sir Bon,’ he said. ‘Look at this bloke. He’s got a canteen of steak-knives hanging out his maw!’
‘More like bread knives, you mean. Take a closer look and you will notice the absence of serrations on those teeth. Totally inadequate for tearing mammalian flesh. No, the grey nurse is predetermined to be a fish eater.’
Coppertone turned to Gallagher. ’You, I suppose, are Mr Rodney Gallagher, whom the police warned me to expect. And what are you, young man? What is your claim on my time?’ he demanded.
‘I am betting supervisor for the Sydney Jockey Club, Sir Bonnor.’
’A vocation, and institution, with which I am unfamiliar, but I suppose they relate to the barbaric practice of horseracing, and ergo to this business of the missing gambler.’
‘Yes, that’s correct. I saw your interview on the news last night. Excuse me if I’m presumptuous, but I got the idea that you have, well, reservations about the popular explanation of the disappearance of Mr Mervyn Goodyear.’
‘You are more perceptive, then, than the blockheaded representatives of the fourth estate of this city, and its police force of plods, to whom I was trying to convey that very doubt,’ the ichthyologist responded with asperity. ‘This business of Goodyear being taken, if it were true, would destroy my reputation as a shark expert.’
'I refer you to chapter five of my best-selling book Nasty Sharks.’
‘I’ve read it,’ said Gallagher, smiling, ‘several times.’
‘Bully! Then you will be aware that if Goodyear has been taken by a shark it would gainsay my assertion that shark attacks do not occur in water temperatures below 72 degrees. I have consulted the marine authorities. The temperature in the waters around Sydney on the day of Goodyear’s disappearance did not exceed 60 degrees. If my theory is sound he could not have been seized by a shark.’
‘Maybe this particular shark’s a “Bondi Iceberg” and likes it a bit nippy,’ suggested Corky helpfully.
Sir Bonnor ignored the flippancy. ’There’s another aspect of the matter I find singular. The tiger shark is primarily a tropical species. While it is certainly not unknown in Sydney waters, I’ve no knowledge of one being caught or observed here in winter. Moreover, the size of the teeth found in the ski would indicate a shark of almost twenty feet. Specimens of that size are rarely found anywhere except in the waters of central Oceania. And yet the teeth I extracted were undoubtedly those of Galeocerdo Cuvier.’
‘That’s it!’ exclaimed Gallagher, snapping his fingers. ‘The water temperature! I knew something didn’t figure. And there’s another thing I’ve thought of. Goodyear’s complexion. He was as brown as a nut.’
‘So! A worthy interlocutor at last!’ Coppertone roared. ’Bravo!’
‘So Goodyear had a good suntan,’ scoffed Corky, ‘so what?’
‘Sir Bonnor’s research shows there are very few instances, outside the tropics, of sharks attacking dark-skinned men. They are much more likely to take a nip at someone with a pallor like a frozen chicken; someone like you, Corky, who spends all his spare time in nightclubs.’
Corky punched Gallagher playfully in the shoulder.
‘And I will tell you something else, Mr Rod Gallagher,’ went on Sir Bonnor, ‘that I did not share with those putative journalists and detectives, who could not be bothered with even elementary research, and which makes these other observations of mine in a sense superfluous. I have examined numerous examples of sharks’ teeth left in surfboards following attacks. The foam within the board allows the teeth to become embedded. The surf-ski presented to me was a different matter. It was of the latest design, a fibreglass shell. It had no foam core. There was nothing into which a displaced shark-tooth could embed.’
’Then what was holding ’em in?’ Corky asked.
‘A substance like glue,’ responded the ichthyologist. ‘Or, to be more precise, a waterproof resin.’
* * * * *
‘Well,’ Gallagher said to Corky on the return ferry, ‘if Coppertone says that Goodyear could not have been attacked by a tiger shark, I think it’s next door to a moral.’
‘What happened then?’
‘Work it out. People stick things up with glue, not sharks. I do find it suggestive that a resin was used, though. The disappearance of Mervyn Goodyear must be a hoax, though a very elaborate one. Someone I think has taken inspiration from recent national events.’
‘You mean, some joker’s trying to pull a giant fish tale?’
’That’s how I read the form, Corky. The question is, of course, who’s doing the pulling? If these rumours of his gambling debts are true, the party that benefits most from Goodyear’s disappearance is not the Vengeful Crayons, but Goodyear himself, if he’s still alive, or his trainer, Dylan Hoyle, who I assume would take over the stable, if he’s not. I’d like to discuss this development with Mr Rowe and Mr Forbes.’
A meeting was set for five that afternoon. While waiting in his office Gallagher looked out the results, journalists’ reviews and stewards’ reports published by the Sunday press for the previous meeting at which a jockey’s whip was dropped, which Forbes had referred to. His eyebrow arched when he read that the horse had been Solander and the jockey Spongy Miller. Next he examined the bookmakers’ returns for the two races for nearly two hours, before he called a registered bookmaker friend and spoke for several minutes. Looking up he noticed that the time was almost five. He hurried off to Rowe’s office.
After hearing Gallagher’s account of the meeting with Coppertone, Rowe and Forbes argued that the next step, supposing for now that Goodyear really was gone, was to speak with Dylan Hoyle. Rowe found an excuse—some registration papers in need of signing—for a visit to Igloo Prince Lodge, Goodyear’s state-of-the-art stable, where Hoyle was, according to gossip at the track, quickly establishing himself as the new squire. Gallagher was not sure the proposed visit was wise. He thought a patently contrived interview with Hoyle—who had artfully bootstrapped himself from the penniless stable hand and bit-part actor who had walked unbidden into the stable twenty years ago, into one of racing’s most powerful men—at this point might reveal their hand prematurely, if indeed Hoyle had anything to hide. But Rowe was insistent and rang the stable. He was told Hoyle was in, and willing to sign the papers.
As they drove from the racecourse to Igloo Prince Lodge, Gallagher asked Rowe what he knew about the relationship between the owner and his private trainer. ‘Well, over the years it became much more familiar than that which normally exists between a man rich enough to keep forty horses and his employees. Hoyle was not so much a trainer as a “2IC”. There was certainly no forelock tucking in the English manner. Hoyle is no respecter of the class system, though Goodyear’s own antecedents are modest enough, it’s always been assumed. Maybe that’s why Hoyle did not think that Goodyear’s daughter, the celebrated Chelsea, was beyond his reach.’
‘They’re a couple?’ Gallagher asked. ‘I didn’t know.’
’Not openly, at least, or not while the old man was around. I guess Goodyear suspected there was some horse-play going on behind the stable door, but Hoyle was not quite sure enough of himself to openly flaunt a relationship with the boss’s daughter. Now he’s in charge it will be interesting to see how his attitude changes. He hasn’t exactly been slow to pull the field marshal’s baton from his saddlebag.’
‘What did you mean when you say Hoyle was more like a second in charge?’
‘Well, the rumour is that Hoyle’s activities on Goodyear’s behalf are not limited to the racecourse and the stable. There are the illegal casinos. It’s said around town that Hoyle really took them over five years ago, though they’re still trading under the Goodyear brand, so to speak.’
The pair reached the stable and a strapper, who recognised Rowe, let them in. As they entered the lawn and cobblestone yard, a stall door swung open, and a chestnut stallion of more than seventeen hands charged out, its nostrils flaring. It spotted the strangers at once, reared on its hind legs and worked them into a corner like a sheep dog. The top half of a double-hinged door opened near them. Numerous bits of racing gear hanging on nails on the interior surface suggested the stable’s saddlery was within. The bottom half now also opened and a short, slim man in a cloth cap and tweed jacket appeared in the doorframe. He whistled loudly through his teeth. ‘Bull! Heel!’ he called, ‘back to your box you devil!’ The horse got down, then turned—reluctantly it seemed—back to its quarters, eyeballing and snorting at the intruders over its shoulder as it withdrew.
Dylan Hoyle, for it was he, came forward, carrying in his hand a riding crop that he had evidently been mending. He put it down on a rail. ‘Ah, Mr Rowe. A good morning to you,’ he said, extending his hand. His voice had a slight Irish brogue. ‘Don’t mind the bad-mannered Bull. He abides no strangers in his yard, especially now that he’s retired from the track. Nor will he allow anyone the freedom of his stall, except me. He wants me to be putting him back in training. Thinks if he goes round terrorising everybody he’ll get his way, but he won’t. Still, I’ve no need of guard dogs with that lad around.’ Hoyle eyed Gallagher. ‘I don’t believe I know this gentleman, Mr Rowe.’
Rowe introduced Gallagher as the Club’s new betting supervisor.
‘Well, that would explain my ignorance,’ responded Hoyle, ‘as I’m not a betting man.’
‘Your missing boss doesn’t mind a small interest, though,’ Gallagher observed, shaking hands.
Gallagher thought Hoyle raised an eyebrow at his choice of the words ‘missing boss’ and use of the present tense, but the trainer said only, ‘That was his business, and it served him well enough, over the years, I would say.’
‘Though not so well of late, perhaps.’
Hoyle responded with some heat. ‘That I wouldn’t know, Mr Gallagher. Perhaps you’ll be telling me, you being the betting supervisor and all?’ He paused, and then smiled. ’No, perhaps I can give you some information after all. When I took over Mr Goodyear’s stables—having been foreman ten years—it was on the condition that I would have no part of the betting side of things. I told him his horses would be fit to win, and racing to win, every time they went to the post. If he chose to bet on them, that was up to him, but he’d get neither more nor less information from me than any other punter.’
‘Hmm, an arrangement that rather seems to defeat the purpose of keeping a stable, some might think,’ Gallagher commented.
‘It is the only way I would take his colours,’ said Hoyle, ‘and I would have no coat-pullers and tipsters hanging around the place either. I threw the lot of them out, like the Good Lord threw the priests and usurers out of his Father’s house. Out with the old, in with the new, is my motto. I’m a futurist, Mr Gallagher. The secret to success is new thinking, new technology, not relying on nineteenth-century training methods, folk cures and the like. Have you yourself ever worked in a racing stable?’
‘No, but my sister trained show jumpers from my father’s property, near Bundara. I used to give her a hand sometimes.’
Hoyle gave a snort that seemed equally as contemptuous as had Bull’s.
‘It seems to me that Mr Goodyear was very fair to everyone with his stable arrangements, and a true friend and benefactor of racing,’ said Rowe hurriedly, trying to stop the exchange from descending into open hostility. ‘By the way, will his colours be parading this Saturday?’
‘I have nominated several horses,’ said Hoyle, ‘but I have not decided if I will pay up. It may depend on how well the track dries out.’
At that point a stunningly attractive young woman dashed into the yard. She wore riding breeches and a skin-tight sweater which, taken together, indicated a very sound conformation. On her head was a cap the twin of Hoyle’s. A blonde ponytail trailed out behind her. Altogether she exuded a girlish exuberance that was almost palpable. It was at once clear she had spotted Hoyle, though not, as it proved, the Jockey Club men, who were screened by a pile of hay-bales.
‘See darling!’ she cried, thrusting forward a silk blouse within a drycleaner’s bag. ‘The new stable colours, just as you designed them; black, with a green “DH” in a gold circle. Now we can throw those horrid red, white and blue rags of Daddy’s into the bin, where they should have gone years ago.’
Rowe, to Gallagher’s chagrin, issued a declaratory cough.
‘Chelsea, we have company,’ said Hoyle without emotion. ‘Please put those away in the saddlery,’ he said, indicating the black silks.
The girl started as she saw the two visitors for the first time; but within a second she had recovered her poise, and even giggled. ‘Why, it’s only Commander Rowe, of the Jockey Club,’ she said, as she disappeared into the box. She emerged without the colours. ‘I thought for a moment from your tone, Dylan, that it was some awful reporter. This other gentleman has the advantage of me, though,’ she said, smiling coquettishly at Gallagher.
‘If you mean by that that I know who you are, Miss Goodyear, while you wouldn’t know me from Adam Lindsay Gordon, you’re on the money.’ Gallagher smiled back a boyish grin. ‘Obviously I’ll have to get out of the betting ring more often, and show myself in the more fashionable parts of the track. I’m Rod Gallagher, the new—or newish—betting supervisor.’
'Never mind, I’m planning to be spending much more time in future in your part of the racecourse, Mr Gallagher. Dylan here might frown on betting, but I think it’s the most exhilarating pleasure in life—or at least, the best the racecourse has to offer. With one thing and another we might see quite a bit more of each other.’
‘I look forward to that possibility.’
‘You boys look you could with a drink,’ said the girl as she deftly mounted the rail between two stalls and tucked herself into a jockey’s crouch, while flicking her hip with the riding crop Hoyle had left there. ’What can Dylan get you—a beer, or champagne; a scotch perhaps? I know. You might like to try some kava, but only if your taste runs rather to muddy water. We smuggled some back from the Solomons recently. Dylan’s become expert in mixing it. It’s a riot.’
Hoyle, who was still staring at Gallagher bellicosely, and was also clearly unimpressed at being treated like the drinks waiter by Chelsea, looked like he’d much rather fetch the young official a good backhander with the crop than a libation. Then he forced a sour grin. ‘Mr Gallagher has just had rather a fright. Big Bull cornered him. Perhaps I should get him a brandy, for his nerves, instead.’
‘Don’t you feel badly about it, Mr Gallagher,’ Chelsea cooed. ‘That horse is a holy terror. Why, even Daddy was scared stiff of him. Now, what about that drink?’
‘In fact, Miss Goodyear, Mr Gallagher and I have rather pressing business back at the racecourse,’ said Rowe.
‘No, not really!’ the girl cried, crinkling her nose. ‘Don’t you think that’s too bad, Dylan?’
‘Very regrettable,’ said the trainer, ‘but we are all busy men, no doubt.’
‘So can we expect to see the stable’s new colours in the winner’s stall at Rosehill on Saturday, Mr Hoyle?’ asked Gallagher.
Hoyle looked him up and down again before answering. ‘I think there’s every chance of it, Mr Gallagher. You just be earning your keep by watching for any moves in the betting ring, now.’
Rowe and Gallagher paid their compliments again and turned to leave. As they were passing the saddlery doors Gallagher had what he hoped was a covert glance into the interior. On the shelves, apart from various bits of tack, were a number of jars and bottles. He found one labelled ‘No-Nails’ of particular interest, though he had no opportunity to examine it more closely.
‘Just a minute, Mr Rowe,’ Hoyle called after them. ‘Are you not forgetting your bit of business?’
‘I don’t think so. What?’ responded Rowe.
‘Those papers you came over here for me to sign.’
Rowe swore quietly under his breath. Then he patted each of his coat pockets. ‘I’m an absent-minded old fool. I’ve clean forgotten to bring them. But never mind; you can sign them at the races on Saturday, if you are there.’
Hoyle looked at him stonily. ‘Of course,’ he said.
They reached the gate. They were let out by a man in leggings that Gallagher had recognised as Spongy Miller, the jockey. He had noticed him earlier at a far end of the yard, sweeping the cobblestones in a desultory manner. Gallagher suspected he had been eavesdropping. Now, as they moved past him, Miller glanced at him nervously, and touched his cap.
As they were descending the driveway that ran past the Federation cottage attached to the stables, Gallagher glanced back over his shoulder at the tall gates that had closed behind them. Taller still, glaring at them balefully with eyes like black coals, was Bull, the giant chestnut stallion.
‘Wow!’ exclaimed Gallagher once they were out of earshot. ‘That was a lively five minutes. So that’s the decidedly A-list Miss Chelsea Goodyear. I’ve seen her in the papers of course, but that is little preparation for the real thing. I felt completely winded, like I’d done a belly-flop on a rugby ball.’
‘Yet you recovered quickly enough to engage in an undisguised bit of flirting,’ observed Rowe dryly. ‘I think you’ve been associating with young Corcoran too much.’
’I flatter myself she does not always welcome young racing officials like that. I received the distinct impression that Dylan doesn’t care for her taking rides outside his stable.’
‘Yes, and Miss Chelsea had better watch her step. Hoyle won’t for long be indulging her like her father did, I expect.’
‘It was a bit of luck her turning up like that; I don’t mean for the chance to admire her form, primarily, though it’s certainly hard to fault. I mean with those new colours—the big green “DH”—for what they tell us about Hoyle’s ego, which is massive. He did not seem too pleased with us getting a sneak preview, though as he must be planning to go public with them at some stage I don’t quite see how it matters. Anyway it was useful, as my remarks might goad him into starting a horse Saturday, when I’m certain he meant not to.’
‘Why do you care about that?’ Rowe asked.
‘I’m now pretty sure that Squire Hoyle has breached the rules of racing, if not indeed the laws of the land. I want him to race on Saturday, and as I’m sure he does not appreciate being challenged, perhaps do something in haste he might regret.’
‘Pity I forgot those papers,’ said Rowe ruefully. ‘Rather queered our story.’
‘I don’t think it mattered in the end, George. I said more than I intended anyway. If we are wondering what Mr Hoyle is up to, I’m sure he’s intrigued what interest the Jockey Club’s secretary, and its wet-behind-the-ears betting supervisor, have in him.’
* * * * *
When after dropping by Rowe’s office Gallagher returned to his own, he lifted the handset of his telephone and rang a starting price bookmaker of his (off-duty) acquaintance.
‘It’s Rod Gallagher, here, mate,’ he told him. ’You got a moment? Terrific. I want to ask you about your betting on two races at Rosehill in the last few months. The first was the welter on 13 April; the second was also the welter, on June the twenty-second. You remember them?’
Gallagher was silent for several minutes while he listened to his informant and jotted down notes. Finally he said ‘That’s the lot? Yeah? Thanks for the drum, mate; that’s one I owe you. Cheers.’ He immediately dialled an internal extension.
‘Rod here, George,’ he told the club secretary. ’Can you find out which track staff were working at the meetings held on 13 April and 22 June this year?
‘It shouldn’t be a problem; Julie will have kept the rosters. What’s the angle?’
‘I am looking for anyone that worked both days.’
‘Okay. I’ll ring you back.’
Instead a few minutes later Rowe strode through Gallagher’s door with two sheets of paper in his hand. ‘Your theory Rod, whatever it is, has drawn a bad barrier, I’m afraid. I’ve checked; no-one worked both those days. I should have told you on the phone; the boys, who are not overpaid by any means, get overtime or shift allowance for working Saturday meetings. Consequently they are all always up for them. It is unlikely that anyone would have two Saturdays in so short a period.’
Gallagher took the rosters from Rowe and compared them. ‘Blast!’ he said. ‘Have I got the wrong form line here?’ He looked at the sheets again. A name on either caught his eye. ‘What about this Johnston and McGuire—don’t I see them hanging about together all the time?’
‘Sure. They’re known as Ned and Dan, after the Kelly boys, and they’re just about as thick with one another, too, and as easygoing about how they earn a quid, I hear.’
‘Which track do they work during the week?’ Gallagher asked.
‘Randwick. Actually Johnston served an apprenticeship in Rollo Keen’s stable up on High Street.’
‘What do they do race days?’
‘Track maintenance; they prod the divots back into the turf after the race.’
’Can you please call Julie and ask if either of these characters is rostered on for this Saturday?’
Rowe complied. ‘Johnston’s on,’ he said.
Next morning, on the stroke of eleven, Gallagher rang the racing manager’s office. ‘Hello, Bert, it’s Rod. Can you tell me if Dylan Hoyle has accepted with any horses for this Saturday’s meeting?’
‘Sure,’ was the answer. ‘Hang on a second, Rod.’
Thirty seconds later he got the answer. ‘He’s got the one in, mate.’
‘What is it?’
‘Who’s he paid up to ride it?’
‘So, Hoyle’s willing to put the gloves on,’ Gallagher said to himself.
Next Gallagher walked to the stewards’ rooms and knocked at the open door of Jim Forbes, who raised his head out of a filing cabinet.
‘Mind if I borrow your best man on Saturday, Jim?’
‘Who would that be?’
‘Cadet Steward Corcoran, of course.’
Forbes grinned, and said ‘Well, no—that is, sure, you can have him—permanently, preferably.’
‘No, Saturday will do, thanks. I’ve got a job rather up his alley.’
‘What’s up?’ Forbes asked.
‘I’ve got to make a few arrangements, then I’ll come back and tell you all about it, as I’ll need your help as well. First things first though; where might I find Spongy Miller at this time of the day?’
‘He doesn’t get rides at the provincial races anymore, so I would guess he’s holed up in the lounge bar of the Epsom Hotel at Kensington, preparing for lunch with a few heart starters.’
‘Thanks. What about Corky; where’s he?’
Forbes frowned. ‘Find the girl Julie; he won’t be far away.’
In fact Gallagher found Corcoran in the cleaner’s closet, inhaling a ‘Craven A’ with relish and listening to the late mail for the Hawkesbury races. Gallagher did not admonish him, but instead asked, ‘How would you like to work for me on Saturday, Corky?’
'I don’t think so, Mr Gallagher. That girl—the pretty one, from the ferry—just called. Her mum’s out of town and she says her older sister, who’s in charge of her, is a pushover, so she’s coming to the races. Old O’Leary’s on holidays so I’ll have the tower on the turn into the back straight to myself—except for the cameraman, and I might find a use for him. I’m planning to take the girl up there.’
Gallagher did not seek to know why. Instead he said ‘I’ve got a better idea. Don’t you want this impressionable young lady to see you in action as an undercover steward; a sort of James Bond of the turf? Of course, that’s if you’re man enough to handle the job. You know Johnston of the track maintenance staff?’
‘Yeah. What about him?’
‘Think you could take him?’
Corcoran snorted. ‘I could take that grasshopper with a hand tied behind my back.’
‘Well then, here’s what I’ve got in mind.’
* * * * *
An hour later Gallagher entered the Epsom Hotel, traditional racing watering hole, situated a furlong from the Randwick St Leger enclosure. As he walked through the public bar he saw little groups of journalists, trainers and gamblers muttering conspiratorially among themselves. One or two men known to Gallagher nodded, a courtesy he returned, but he did not stop to chat. He went directly to the dining room, where as Forbes had predicted, he found Spongy Miller, smoking a small cigar while prodding despondently at a bowl of salad of undisturbed appearance. He was stealing glances at a large, red faced man in an adjacent stall devouring an enormous steak. Before Miller was a malt-coloured drink, with ice, in a tumbler. Several others, empty, were pushed aside. Gallagher took the seat opposite while Miller was looking once more over his shoulder at the beef-eater.
‘Spongy, old son, wouldn’t you like to get stuck into that? Of course, you wouldn’t make the weights for a jumper’s flat race afterwards, unfortunately. I, on the other hand, have no problem weighing in a few pounds overweight.’ He called to the waitress behind the counter. ‘Could I have one of those “Squatter’s t-bones” please? Medium rare.’
Miller’s shoulders had hunched when Gallagher addressed him. Slowly he turned back to his table.
‘Why if it isn’t Mr Gallagher, the betting supervisor. Why don’t you join me?’ Miller invited, a blend of sarcasm and whisky in his voice.
‘Thanks Spongy, my pleasure,’ Gallagher responded. ‘How are you travelling?’
‘Up the Colo-Putty Road in an old Foden, thank you very much. I can’t even score a ride at the provincials with an outside stable these days, and Mr Hoyle thinks they’re below his dignity. Five years ago I rode the favourite in the Melbourne Cup. Now—’ the jockey made an expressive gesture.
‘Racing is a fickle business, sure enough, Spongy. And jockeys see the worst of it. It’s no wonder that some can’t resist—’ Gallagher paused as though unsure he should continue.
‘Can’t resist what?’ the jockey demanded with hostility.
Gallagher gently touched the rim of Miller’s glass with his steak knife.
The response was a succinct blasphemy. ‘You’re not going to hang a man for a few scotches on his day off, God damn it?’
Gallagher’s steak arrived. It was even bigger than the red-faced man’s specimen, which by now he had denuded of meat. Gallagher chuckled and rubbed his hands together. 'Reminds me of John Wayne’s hunk of Texas Longhorn in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.’ He cut a portion from the eye fillet and placed it in his mouth. He chewed for a moment, grunted appreciatively and announced, ‘Looks like it could have been cut off Phar Lap, but it’s tender as.’
Miller could not shift his gaze from the steak, but he asked, ‘Do you have to eat that thing right under my nose?’
‘A fair enough objection, Spongy. Look, have a bite of the fillet. Go on, it won’t matter this week anyway.’
Miller was about to accept the offer, but as Gallagher made this last observation, the jockey stopped with his whip in the air, so to speak, and asked, ‘Why won’t it matter?’
‘I see you’ve got the one ride Saturday, in the welter, and it’s carrying almost ten stone, so you’ll be packing lead anyway.’
‘Yeah, I guess you’re right,’ Miller agreed, and accepted the proffered morsel. He closed his eyes and chewed slowly.
‘So it’s Solander on Saturday, eh? Is it going to win?’
‘You know jockeys can’t tip. Better ask the boss. You seem to get on famously with him,’ the jockey commented sarcastically.
‘You’re referring to Mr Hoyle, I suppose. Eavesdropping this morning, eh? Has he given you your riding instructions yet?’
‘Not yet. It’s Thursday.’
Gallagher resumed his steak, and made his play. ‘Now here’s a funny thing, Spongy. I’ll bet you that when Dylan Hoyle does give you your instructions, you’ll ignore them.’
‘As if! I know what side my bread is buttered on.’
‘Heavyweight jockeys shouldn’t eat bread and butter. Goes straight to the girth.’
‘You’re a riot, Mr Gallagher. I’m really glad my weight problems give you an opportunity for wise cracks. So tell me, Graham Kennedy, why would I disobey the instructions of the one trainer standing between me and my risking my neck riding in steeplechases?’
'Because you’re going to ride to my instructions,’ Gallagher responded unflappably, reaching for the HP sauce.
The jockey hooted. ‘No wonder the boys reckon you’re a few starters shy of a full field. Why would I be taking riding instructions from you?’
Gallagher set down his knife and fork and engaged Miller’s eye. 'Because, my friend, I know what’s been going on.’
The jockey’s derisive smirk seemed to quiver on its foundations. ‘Like what?’
‘I’d be doing you no favours to reveal that in a pub full of some of the sharpest ears in racing. Let me leave it at this, Spongy; you’ve been ever ready to please Mr Hoyle, I know, but now the jig is up.’
At first the jockey made no response. But then his mouth fell open foolishly, while the colour drained from his face.
‘I knew this would happen!’ he moaned.
Gallagher made no reply, but waited for Miller to continue. When he did the there was no trace of his previous surliness.
'I hated doing it, Mr Gallagher, that’s the honest truth! But I had no choice. He really holds the reins, not me; I have to do what he says, or I’d be history. He told me I’d never ride again—anywhere—if I didn’t cop it sweet. He told me I’d be physically incapable of riding. And he weren’t bluffing, neither. Christ, what’s going to become of me?’
‘That’s up to you. You had better sell Hoyle a dummy and come on my team. If you do, I’ll make your case to the Committee. You should get no worse than twelve months disqualification.’
‘Yeah, well that’s reassuring. If I got a year I wouldn’t get a ride at the Easter Show when I came back. Still, if I do the dirty on Hoyle I’m sure I can get a good secure position somewhere else.’
‘That’s the spirit! Where?’
‘About five miles off Bondi Beach—chained to a Japanese mini-sub.’
‘I can’t blame you for calling for your brown jodhpurs, Spongy, but trust me, after Saturday Hoyle will be sharing a ladder with “Hollywood George”, watching the races from over the Wansey Road fence,’ Gallagher predicted with a confidence he did not entirely feel. ‘You won’t have anything to worry about from him. Cooperating with me is your best option—your only option—if you want to stay in racing.’
‘At this stage I’d be happy just to stay above sea level.’ Miller sighed and downed his drink. ‘Give us another bite of that bloody steak,’ he said. ‘Now, what do you want me to do?’
* * * * *
At eleven that evening Miller received a phone call from Dylan Hoyle. ’I’m out of town and can’t get hold of that fool, Johnston. I want you to track him down him and tell him his orders are changed; there will be no slot car racing this Saturday—repeat, slot car racing is off.’
‘Sure thing, boss,’ Miller replied with pretended insouciance. ‘No worries.’
‘Good. You yourself are clear on the procedure, I trust?’
‘I know what I have to do.’
* * * * *
Earlier, Gallagher had returned to his Rosehill office. At five he stood to leave. However he paused momentarily and rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then laughed. He called PMG directory assistance. ‘Could you put me through to Taronga Zoo, please?’ he asked. The zoo’s switchboard operator announced herself. Gallagher asked for Sir Bonnor Coppertone.
‘One moment, sir. I will check if Sir Bonnor is available. Who should I say is calling?’
‘My name’s Rod Gallagher. Tell Sir Bonnor it’s the betting supervisor from the Turf Club,’ he added.
‘I’ll put you on hold, sir,’ the operator said.
After a few seconds Gallagher recognised The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens. Someone at the zoo had a sense of humour, he thought. Soon a leonine voice cut in.
‘Ah, Mr Gallagher! Most perceptive of readers of my works for the layman. Tell me, sir, have you yet cleared my and my sharks’ good names?’
‘I believe I am a good way down that track, Sir Bonnor. In fact, I expect the matter to be resolved on Saturday. Which is why I have called you. When we met the other day I got the idea you are not in favour of horseracing.’
‘I recall I described it as barbaric. I am sorry; perhaps I am guilty of critiquing without sufficient research. I am really in ignorance of the sport—is it classified as sport or a business?—other than that its equine failures and casualties provide the majority of the rations for the zoo’s large carnivores.’
‘Racing has contributed much more to this country than cat food, I would argue,’ Gallagher replied. ‘I have a proposition for you, Sir Bonnor. Would you consider being my guest at the races on Saturday? You would greatly honour the club. Many famous men for whom horseracing was previously a mystery had their first taste of the track in this way. Several are now regular racegoers. And, as I say, I am expecting a breakthrough in the Goodyear mystery.’
‘Man’s response to the stewardship given him of other species is of course a key research interest of mine,’ Coppertone replied. ‘I refer you to the obscene harvesting of shark fins as a case in point. I have witnessed it firsthand. I have also expressed disapproval of horseracing, but as I say I have no empirical base for that criticism. Perhaps it is time that were rectified. And I admit to a certain curiosity as to the fate of this missing gambler. I accept. Lady Coppertone will accompany me, of course.’
‘That’s great! I’ll get my chairman’s secretary on to the arrangements. She will phone tomorrow to confirm and let you know what time the chauffeur will pick you up—fair enough?’
‘I anticipate this experience. How do you suggest I should prepare for the fieldwork?’
Gallagher was getting the hang of Coppertone-speak by now. ’You could do worse than pick up a copy of the Sportsman; it’s a racing form paper. Please call me if you would like me to interpret some of its more, er, arcane language.’
* * * * *
On Friday morning Gallagher went directly to Jim Forbes’s office. He found the chief stipe updating his file of ‘warned off’ persons with intelligence he had received from interstate colleagues.
‘What a mob of desperates!’ he exclaimed, pointing Gallagher towards the visitor’s chair. ’Of course, this file would be as thick as a second-rower’s ear if I could pin something on every racecourse undesirable known to me.’
Gallagher smiled ruefully. ‘Come Monday morning I reckon you’ll be adding one of two names to that list, mate.’
Forbes looked with interest at his young friend. ‘Whose?’ he asked.
‘Either Dylan Hoyle’s—or mine. Look, I have to tell you about this plan I’ve hatched. I would have told you anyway, but the fact is your help is going to be essential. But please, let me get through the whole thing before you start rolling your eyes.’
‘Fair enough. What’s on the go?’
Forbes kept his promise with some difficulty. When Gallagher had finished he said simply, ‘You have got to be kidding. You are crazy, my young friend.’
'It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds. And it’s the only way I can think of to flush Hoyle out. Strictly speaking no rules of racing will be contravened, the result of the race will not change, and no punter will be disadvantaged. The stewards will conduct an inquiry, but, regardless of whether Solander wins or loses, correct weight will be declared.’
‘Yeah, but—well, think what the media will make of it. You, me, the club—Sydney racing—will be a laughing stock.’
'You can make the hearing in camera, can’t you?’
‘Yes, but the racing writers will be filthy.’
’Throw ‘em a bone. You must have something juicy. You needn’t worry about being contradicted later about the inquiry. If things work out I doubt Dylan Hoyle will be calling any press conferences. I am allowing him a way out of racing without disgrace. I expect he will immediately retire from the game, if not skip the country altogether.’
‘What about Spongy Miller?’
‘I’ve fitted a tongue-tie. He won’t blab.’
‘The connections of the other horses?’
‘They would not be required to give evidence to an inquiry of this sort. No, the only people in the room, will be me, you and your stewards, Spongy Miller possibly, Dylan Hoyle—and Sir Bonnor Coppertone.’
‘The shark bloke! Why him?’
‘He’s the special guest of the club on Saturday. He has a lot of influence in the big end of town. I want him to see racing behind the scenes and to know that the good guys are really running the show and that we are rubbing out the villains. Besides, he has a personal interest in this whole Goodyear and Hoyle drama. And I do want to have an independent witness to the hearing, just in case.’
‘What about the cops?’
‘What about them?’
‘They are likely to take some interest in a case of kidnapping or murder, I guess.’
‘They haven’t shown much to date! My goal is to get Dylan Hoyle out of racing. If this other stuff comes out about him betraying Goodyear somewhere down the track, fair enough, but I’m not an agent of the law. You’re the former Keystone. You can put your mates wise later on, if you like.’
Forbes drummed his fingers on his desk. ‘I’ll have to discuss this with my men—give them the opportunity to work at a country meeting if they are uncomfortable with your idea. I don’t want to ruin their careers.’
‘Fair enough, but if they become part of the tale they’ll draw an audience at the stewards’ Christmas dinner for years to come. I can count on you, at least, can’t I?’
‘Well, someone with some racing nous will have to be on board if this thing is to have any chance of succeeding. I need to keep an eye on young Corcoran, anyway. He might run amok once he’s let off the lead.’
‘You spoil me Jim.’
‘But I’ll have to let George Rowe and the chairman, Facey, know what’s going on.’
'That’s essential. George already has a fair idea. It will need to be demonstrated to Hoyle he’s on the nose with the whole racing administration, if not the law, before he’d voluntarily rub his name off the shingle at Igloo Prince Lodge, especially as the paint has not even dried yet.’
* * * * *
Saturday broke cold but fine and clear. Having attended to his usual pre-race duties on course, Gallagher wandered down to the VIP drop-off point in the members car park. The Club’s white limousine appeared. It had not stopped moving when the ‘death seat’ door opened and Sir Bonnor Coppertone, a Sportsman in one hand and a Best Bets in the other, tried to leap out, but the strap of his binocular case became fouled on the window winder. ‘Dash it. Caught in the shark net!’ the ichthyologist cried as he was pulled up short. Gallagher helped him free himself. Meanwhile the chauffeur had helped Lady Coppertone from the rear seat. As soon as Gallagher had introduced himself to her, Coppertone charged off towards the entrance to the course. Gallagher struggled to keep pace with him; Lady Coppertone was tailed off.
‘What do you think of Nugent’s filly in the first?’ Coppertone demanded of Gallagher as they entered the course at speed. ’I heard on the Morning Line she’s burning up the tracks.’
Gallagher was not entirely surprised by Coppertone’s acquisition virtually overnight of a racing lexicon. He had at first meeting identified him as something of a Toad of Toad Hall; an enthusiast who would at once desire the lore of any subject that captured his interest.
‘The view in the ring is she will be favourite by post time,’ Gallagher responded. ‘I wouldn’t be trying to turn you off her.’
‘Excellent! I’ll back her on the nose, then, as soon as betting opens.’
Once the bet was placed Gallagher escorted the Coppertones to the committee rooms and introduced them to Sir Lawrie Facey and the other members of the Board. A splendid luncheon was served, during which Coppertone grilled Facey and the club’s honorary veterinarian, Perry Grainger, about the care of the racehorse and measures taken to alleviate track and training injuries and deaths. At the completion of the meal he declared himself fully satisfied with both the fare and the defence given by the racing men. He leapt to his feet and declared his intention of immediately collecting on Nugent’s filly, which had won the first easily. ’You can’t beat the Morning Line,’ he advised Gallagher.
Gallagher entertained the Coppertones through the course of the first three races, delighting them with little professional insights into how a race meeting is conducted. As soon as the jockeys of the placed runners in the third weighed in, he excused himself, explaining that he was to help Jim Forbes prepare for the next, the Welter Handicap. He promised that he would return to watch with them its running. As he was leaving he said to Coppertone, ‘I suggest you have a little something on Solander in this.’
‘Ah, Solander!’ Coppertone boomed in response. ‘I was already attracted by the fact that it shares the name of a first-rate man of science; Daniel Solander, botanist on Cook’s first South Seas expedition. Yes, I will back this horse Solander.’
Gallagher joined Forbes in the birdcage enclosure as the jockeys were mounting. Spongy Miller’s face was drained of colour and it contrasted noticeably with the shimmering blackness of the new Igloo Prince Lodge colours, to which the course commentator was drawing the crowd’s attention. Dylan Hoyle was standing well back, looking particularly relaxed, his arms folded as he chatted with the stable foreman. The clerk of the course checked his watch and then indicated to Miller that he should lead the field onto the course proper on the top-weight. With an almost imperceptible nod to Gallagher, Miller clicked Solander up and complied.
After the two officials watched the field onto the track, Gallagher smiled grimly and extended his hand to Forbes.
‘Your thoughts on the next?’ the latter asked, like the host of the Morning Line.
‘Only that I will kill Spongy Miller if he is having a saver on Hoyle.’
‘I thought you had the Sponge tongue-tied.’
‘I’m worried he might have worked his tongue over the bit. I’ll see you down here after the race.’
Gallagher rejoined the Coppertones as the horses were entering the barrier.
‘What news from the betting ring?’ asked Coppertone.
‘Solander is out to four-to-one,’ Gallagher answered.
'I am glad I backed him on the pari-mutuel, then,’ Coppertone responded.
The commentator cried ‘They’re off’. Gallagher turned to watch the developments of the next one-and-a-half minutes, which, he realised disinterestedly, would probably determine if he had any future in racing.
Solander as usual left the barrier quickly, but Miller did not let him drift back in the field, which was the horse’s usual pattern of racing. Instead he rode up, so that Solander led by about two lengths at the back of the course. Nor did Miller ease at that point, as would have been expected, but kept his horse well on the bit, and occasionally dug his heels gently into the horse’s flanks. No other jockey wanted to chase the tearaway, so by the six furlongs post Solander was four lengths to the good. Then Miller gave the horse a breather, but only a partial one, as he could easily have taken another grip on the reins.
At the three furlongs Miller began to urge his mount along, going so far as to give Solander an occasional crack of the whip behind the saddle, although he was careful not to use anything that might appear to be a backhand flick. Into the straight the jockey abandoned all restraint and began to flail like a windmill with the whip, until, precisely at the furlong marker, Miller appeared to slightly miss-time his blow, and his whip sprang back upon itself before launching into the air like a discarded vaulter’s pole.
‘There it goes, just as scripted,’ Gallagher said to himself.
Solander was still several lengths in front but the second favourite, Sounds of Mae, was catching him rapidly. The latter’s rider, Stayne, was such a vigorous one that it was said he could almost cut a horse in half with the whip. It was clear that Sounds of Mae, ears flat back on her skull, was giving all she had in response to this persuasion. Solander, true to Gallagher’s assessment, had to be bullied to the line, and his will to win had clearly declined since the loss of Miller’s whip. Miller was however, it appeared to Gallagher, riding with absolute desperation, trying his best to ‘scrub his horse’s ears off’ under hands and heels riding, and then, in the final drive to the line, by resorting to slapping the horse’s shoulder with his open palm.
Solander and Miller were ’scraping paint’ along the inside fence but it appeared that their movement was now mostly up and down, like that of a painted horse on a carousel pole. In contrast Sounds of Mae seemed to be descending on them like a dive bomber. Somewhere in the vicinity of the winning post the positions of the horses were reversed, but—critically—had it happened before or after the line? Sounds of Mae, as though zooming out of a power dive, ignored the camber of the turn and flashed off out of sight towards the ten furlong starting chute, while Solander hobbled around the turn out of the straight, taking short, proppy steps like a man with gout.
Sir Bonnor had watched the race through his binoculars until the last furlong, when he lowered them to judge the finish by the naked eye, as he’d noticed the old hands had done in earlier races.
‘That was exhilarating!’ he exclaimed, as the rest of the field crossed the line, ‘like watching a mako pursuing a baitfish.’ He turned a wry eye to Gallagher. ‘I note that one of the two claimants to first prize is your selection, Solander, who, in contrast with previous form, led at every post.’
Gallagher smiled a wan smile. ‘I was fairly confident that there was going to be a change of riding tactics on Solander today.’
‘Ah! How so?’
‘Because I arranged for them.’
Some moments later the judge placed number one in the frame, confirming Solander as winner, with Sounds of Mae second.
Sir Bonnor noted this with gratification. ‘Just the ticket. I’m off to collect my winnings.’
‘Relax a moment, Sir Bonnor,’ Gallagher advised. ‘I think that there is going to be a delay in correct weight on this race.’
Sir Bonnor looked at Gallagher over the rim of his glasses. ‘You seem to have a large degree of prescience with regards this race.’
‘There is a little more happening here than meets the eye,’ Gallagher conceded. ‘Sir Bonnor, I wonder would you do me a favour?’
‘If it is in my power, and ethical, certainly.’
Moments later Gallagher excused himself and wandered out onto the birdcage enclosure lawn, where he lit a cigarette. Jim Forbes joined him. They watched as Dylan Hoyle, with a puzzled expression, clapped reservedly as Spongy Miller returned Solander to scale. Miller touched his two fore-fingers to the peak of his cap to salute the connections—in lieu of the more customary raising of the whip.
‘No wonder Hoyle looks like someone whose name has been called in a raffle he didn’t buy a ticket in,’ Gallagher chuckled. ‘He’s trying to work out why Solander led the race in the first place, and how it came to win it in the second. But that’s nothing to the shock he’s likely to get in a few minutes.’ He turned to Forbes. ‘Are you ready to play your part, Sir Laurence?’
’I should be playing Hamlet since I must be mad, but yes, I’ll go through with it. I’ll call the course commentator and tell him to make the announcement.’
Gallagher remained to finish his cigarette. He glanced over once more at Hoyle, and saw that he had been joined by Chelsea Goodyear, who kissed him on the cheek, clearly delighted by the win.
The warning siren sounded. Gallagher heard the course broadcaster Jack Mitchell. ‘Before correct weight is declared,’ Mitchell announced, ‘the stewards are to enquire into the change of riding tactics on the winner, Solander. They request that the connections of Solander proceed immediately to the stewards’ room. Press, please note: the inquiry will be held in camera.’
Gallagher watched closely Hoyle’s reaction; a shake of the head and a shrug of the shoulders at Chelsea that seemed to indicate he had no idea what was going on, as Gallagher could well appreciate.
Gallagher stubbed the cigarette and proceeded to the stewards’ room. When Dylan Hoyle entered moments later, he found seated at a large table the betting supervisor, Jim Forbes and two of his fellow stewards, and the robust figure of Sir Bonnor Coppertone dominating one end of the furniture. Hoyle raised a questioning eyebrow at him.
‘This is Colonel Grosse, a steward of the British Jockey Club. He is on a tour of Australian racing. I have invited him in to see how a stewards’ inquiry is conducted here. You know the rest of us. Take a seat, Mr Hoyle.’
‘Surely,’ agreed the trainer. He looked again at Coppertone. ’Hold on to your hat, Colonel—you might think you have stumbled onto a Crazy Gang movie set, with this lot directing.’ Then Hoyle’s eyes narrowed. ‘Say, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?’
‘On the British turf, perhaps,’ Coppertone suggested.
‘Hmm.’ Hoyle looked around the room. ‘Where’s my jockey, Miller?’ he asked.
‘Indisposed. I’ve taken a statement from him.’
’Why is this inquiry being held in camera?’
‘For legal reasons.’
‘All right then, let’s have at it,’ Hoyle asserted. He crossed his arms and clasped a hand to either bicep. ‘Well?’ he said to Forbes.
‘Mr Hoyle, you are aware that, in order to protect the public, it is expected that trainers will advise the stewards of a change in riding tactics before the race?’
’And that this is particularly desirable when it is planned that a horse that normally races off the pace shall try for the lead?
‘Sure,’ said Hoyle.
‘And yet, in the previous race your horse, Solander, which normally settles well back, has led all the way to win. Why did you not inform the stewards of this change?’
‘That’s easy. Because I had no prior knowledge of it.’
‘You say your instructions were not to lead?’
‘Ask Miller when you see him.’
‘I have. He says you told him to lead at all costs.’
Hoyle looked surprised, and was silent a while. ‘Then someone has got at him. Anyhow, it’s a lie.’
‘The horse was easy in the market,’ said Gallagher. ‘Did you back it?’
Hoyle smiled sourly. ‘I believe I made it clear, Mr Gallagher, I don’t gamble on the outcome of horse races.’
‘Let’s have a look at the patrol film,’ Forbes suggested.
‘I don’t mind if the punters waiting to collect don’t, but who cares about them?’ Hoyle agreed sardonically.
The lights were dimmed and a grainy image of a field of horses leaving a starting barrier appeared on a dirty yellow screen that one of the junior stewards had erected.
The party watched in silence for ten seconds, before Forbes commented, ‘Miller is much more vigorous than usual on Solander in the first furlong.’
‘What can I say?’ said Hoyle. ‘My instructions were identical to those the last five times the horse has raced.’
No more was said until the film showed Miller losing his riding crop in the home straight. ‘That’s the third time that Miller’s dropped his whip in the last four months,’ Gallagher said.
‘Really?’ responded Hoyle. ‘Lucky for him his vocation was not lion taming, then.’
Gallagher mentally crossed himself. ‘I’d like this inquiry be given the opportunity to examine Miller’s whip, Mr Hoyle. Have you any objection?’
There was a glint in the trainer’s eye as he responded. ‘Not at all, Mr Gallagher. Mind telling us all what you’re expecting to find?’
Forbes spoke to one of his stewards. ‘Ask the track worker that picked up Miller’s whip to bring it in.’
A minute passed in awkward silence before there was another knock at the door. A man with a monstrous moustache and glasses entered the room, wearing the grey dust-jacket of the club’s race day track maintenance workers. Gallagher noted that Hoyle, who was slumped in a relaxed position in his chair, started when he recognised—or rather, it seemed, failed to recognise—the track worker. He sat up at once.
The whip was handed to Forbes, who examined it minutely and turned it over in his hands. He paid particular attention to the leather flap at the end of the crop, which strikes the horse. He went so far as to slap himself on the wrist. He then passed the whip onto his fellow stewards and finally to Sir Bonnor, or ‘Colonel Grosse’.
‘Seems like an ordinary whip to me, Rod,’ Forbes commented. There was a murmur of agreement from the stewards beside him.
‘Of course it is!’ interjected Hoyle, who had relaxed again. ‘Have you suffered a hit on the noggin at all lately Mr Gallagher?’
Gallagher ignored this and turned to the trackman, who had remained in the room. ‘This is the whip you picked up above the furlong post after the running of the previous race, the Welter Handicap?’
‘It is,’ the man answered.
‘Are you prepared to swear to that?’
‘Mr Hoyle, do you recognise this whip?’
‘Certainly. It is the whip that my jockey Miller carried in today’s race. It has a distinctive pattern in the grip.’
‘Mr Hoyle, I put it to you that this whip carries what is known as a jigger—a small but powerful battery that when applied to a horse delivers a quite significant electric shock. The horse responds physiologically with a burst of adrenalin, and consequently accelerates. The intention, of course, is that the horse goes on to win the race.’
Hoyle listened to this proposition with evident amusement. ‘I’m sure now you’ve been picnicking with the little people, Mr Gallagher.’
‘Then you won’t mind participating in an experiment with this whip?’
‘Not in the least—but you’ll be sorry if you’re thinking of striking me with it!’
‘That won’t be necessary. Would you please stand and roll up your sleeve, Mr Hoyle?’
Defiantly Hoyle stood and exposed his forearm. His bottom lipped jutted out at the betting supervisor. ‘Fair thee well, Mr Betting Supervisor Gallagher. I won’t be seeing you on the racecourse in future, I’m thinking. Oh, I’ll give Chelsea your regards.’
Gallagher drew a deep breath and inverted the whip. He pressed the dome of the handle against the bare flesh of Dylan Hoyle’s arm. Immediately a sound like the yelp of a dog broke from the trainer’s lips, and at the same time he was impelled back into the chair he had just vacated. His pork-pie hat flew from his head as his neck snapped back following the moment of collision with the chair. The hat hit the wall. Hoyle was rendered silent, once he had loosed the initial canine whine. He remained in this stupefied state for almost a minute. His eyes, which at first rolled like the wheels of an out-of-order poker machine, ultimately re-synchronised. They rested stupidly on Gallagher. There was a faint smell like burnt toast.
The members of the inquiry panel had gasped and half risen from their seats when Hoyle yelled. They as well were now speechless.
At last Gallagher broke the silence. ‘Please accept my sincerest apologies, Mr Hoyle,’ he said in a voice that did not sound particularly contrite. ‘Obviously this whip is not a jigger. That is clear from your reaction.’ Gallagher turned to Forbes. ‘I have no more questions for Mr Hoyle.’
‘In that case, I see no need to further delay the declaration of correct weight. Steve, could you call Jack Mitchell and have him announce it? Mr Hoyle, you are free to leave.’
Hoyle rose unsteadily. He picked his hat from the floor, and replaced it on his head, though back-to-front. He slowly moved towards the door from the inquiry room that led to the clerk of scales precinct, where the press would be waiting.
‘Mr Hoyle, there is a rear door, if you would prefer not to—’
‘Well I’ll be jiggered!’ Sir Bonnor exclaimed with unconscious irony, as Hoyle wobbled out the proffered alternative exit like a Flowerpot Man. ‘A very satisfying outcome, though. Serves the damned rogue right for subjecting defenceless beasts to electric shocks! Glad he got some of his own treatment.’
‘So, you were right on the money, Rod,’ Forbes said. ‘Hoyle and Goodyear have been using a battery.’
Gallagher patted on the back the anonymous trackman. At this the man detached his moustache and glasses and removed his dust jacket, to reveal a smart lounge suit.
‘Thanks Corky. No problems with Johnston?’
‘It was a breeze, easier than spotting dead-uns at Richmond trots. Mr Forbes got me a trackman’s dust jacket and a pass and got me into the truck with the others going around into the back straight. Johnston gives me the hairy eyeball and asks me who I am and I tell him if it’s any business of his I’m casual staff hired for the day. And he says “oh yeah?” and tells me to keep to the outside of the track. After they jump he starts trailing the field about two horses off the inside fence. When we come into the home straight Johnston homes in on Miller’s whip lying on the track. He grabs hold of it but I put a hand on his shoulder and say “Not so fast, Shorty!” And before he has time to start anything I pull him over behind the ambulance where we’re out of view of the public, like you said to do, and I twist his arm behind his back and grab the whip. The stewards in the car, they tell the other trackmen to carry on like nothing happened, and the next minute I’m over at the outside fence showing the whip to Bon-Bon Kate and enjoying a “Craven A”.’
‘The good sort from the ferry. Reports from down river are she’s a cracker once you pull her.’
‘Hmm. What happened to Johnston?’ Gallagher asked.
‘Last time I saw him he was sprinting like Nebo Road for the Leger exit.’
‘Good work, boy!’ Forbes complimented the cadet steward he had previously regarded as a dead loss.
The object of this praise leapt behind the stewards’ typewriter and clattered furiously on the keys for several minutes. ‘How will this do for the stewards’ report?’
After the Welter Handicap an inquiry was called by stewards into the change of riding tactics on the winner, Solander, which led all the way. A statement provided by Solander’s jockey, M. Miller, who was indisposed, was read. An interview with the trainer, Mr Dylan Hoyle, was commenced, however in its course Mr Hoyle also became indisposed and was allowed to leave the racecourse to consult a physician. On the basis of the evidence available the stewards could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt there had been a deliberate and predetermined plan to mislead the public. As a consequence it was decided to take no further action, whereupon correct weight was declared.
Forbes beamed. ‘Well done Corky! You’ve mastered the writing of passive voice stewards’ gobbledygook. We’ll have a use for you now on race days! Come on, you men, we’ve still got half a race meeting to run. As for you,’ he said to Gallagher with pretended severity, ‘I’d better see you in my office after the last.’ And he winked.
* * * * *
Gallagher, Forbes, Rowe and Sir Bonnor Coppertone presided over a decanter of scotch in Forbes’s office at five o’clock. Corky Corcoran was reported AWOL.
‘And now, my course detective heir-presumptive,’ said Rowe, who was in high spirits, as he passed the water jug to Gallagher, ’I demand that you give us the case’s unravelling, or denouement, as my reading of detective fiction informs me these gatherings are known.’
‘Though this hasn’t been so much a “whodunit”; more of a “howdhedoit”, you might say.’
‘Maybe so, but I still require elucidation. For instance, what made you realise that the police, the media, and even the public had so badly misinterpreted the disappearance of Mr Mervyn Goodyear?’
Gallagher reflected a moment before he began.
‘When you think of it this affair has had two quite distinct parts. The first, conceived by Goodyear—the whip business, which I’ll come back to—was simple, effective, and quite possibly might never have been detected, especially if it were tried just once, or at most twice, as was Goodyear’s intention. The second—Goodyear’s fabricated demise—was, you would agree, far-fetched and ridiculous. And yet this tale too might have easily gone uncontested if we had not found a link with some race day irregularities and odd betting trends at the track.’
‘George and I don’t wish to claim much of the credit,’ Forbes said gruffly.
‘Not at all; you’ve been my Captain Hastings and Dr Watson,’ responded Gallagher. Rowe laughed. ‘Let’s consider the shark angle first. Hoyle, who follows the news more closely than most racing men, had I found taken a keen interest in the unexplained disappearance of the Prime Minister, Mr Holt, in a bad sea off a Victorian beach last year. He was struck by the large number of loony explanations of it volunteered in letters to newspaper editors, and so on. The prime minister’s fame as a lover of the ocean reminded him of Goodyear’s. They even looked similar. This gave him an idea. If people could believe that Holt was whisked off to Moscow in a Russian sub, why wouldn’t they buy that Goodyear had left the continental shelf in the belly of a rogue shark, or perhaps shanghaied by an Asian tramp steamer?’
‘But why? Why was it necessary to make it seem to the world that Mervyn Goodyear had left it?’
’Hoyle and Goodyear both had good, though quite polarised, reasons for wishing it. Goodyear was trying to save his neck; Hoyle was hoping to see him get it there. He had long imagined himself as the squire of Igloo Prince Lodge, with the fair Chelsea, daughter of the former master, as a very fitting foundation broodmare. But Goodyear, annoyingly for Hoyle, proved seemingly ageless and also kept winning at the track, and did not look like handing him the deeds to the stable any time soon. Nevertheless, Hoyle perceived Goodyear’s love of gambling as the weakness that he could use to rid himself of him. When Goodyear decided to expand into casinos, with the help of American mobster capital, as he did some five years ago, Hoyle saw his chance. He told the truth when he said gambling meant nothing to him, even though he was given the job of running the casinos while Goodyear continued in “front office” glamour roles. His view was, let the Yanks have the casinos, if they wanted them.’
’And they did want them, certainly. The increasing number of US servicemen on leave from Vietnam in Sydney they recognised as a potential goldmine. Hoyle courted the Mob in his role as casinos supremo and they agreed on a plan; they would finance Goodyear’s casino expansion program at high interest rates, while Hoyle was simultaneously sabotaging the empire from within. As an example, Hoyle double dealt with the cops so that planned raids weren’t announced in advance, much to Goodyear’s mystification. They always were previously. Hoyle wrote down security; all sorts of shady characters that were barred were let in, and they soon frightened off more respectable customers. Croupiers played against the house. Within a year the casinos were running at a loss; within two they were a financial disaster.’
‘Now Goodyear was in trouble and open to suggestion. Hoyle had finalised a scheme that would suggest the failing casino-owner had been taken by a shark while riding his surf-ski somewhere between Bondi and Tamarama on a gloomy day, when visibility from the coast would be poor. All he needed was a few shark’s teeth, and something to fix them into a duplicate of the surf-ski that had been prepared to look as though it had been bitten in half—and Goodyear to play his part.’
‘After Goodyear lost very heavily on the second, pretended set-up on Solander, including the money he owed the Americans—I’ll explain in a moment—Hoyle was indeed able to convince him his apparent death in the jaws of a shark would be bought by the Yanks, who, as Hoyle pointed out, knew as much about sharks as they did about cricket. The pitch sold to Goodyear was that, on the chosen day, he would be picked up by a loyal camp follower in a speedboat, who would whisk him offshore to a ship bound for Fiji. Goodyear has business associates there who would help him assume a new identity.’
'What Hoyle didn’t tell Goodyear was that a Yank mobster was to be rung in for the family retainer, and that Goodyear was destined for the bottom of the Pacific, not an island paradise in the middle of it. Once Goodyear was out of the way, the rest would be easy. When a decent period of mourning had been observed, Hoyle, in the role of honest broker acting for the family, would negotiate the sale of the casinos to the Americans, while he would accede to the pleas of the Goodyear clan that he take over the racing stables.’
'It was only on the morning chosen for the murder that Hoyle learned from a casual remark of Chelsea’s that Goodyear had added recently—certainly since the escape plot was sold him—a clause in his will that if it could be proved that he had died at sea his estate would be held in trust for a period of ten years. So instead of killing him outright Hoyle had to ensure that Goodyear’s fate was subject to doubt. That was why he ran with both the shark story and the Vengeful Crayons fairy tale. By the way, the Crayons furphy was originally a product of Hoyle’s warped sense of humour, though there really had been considerable grumbling among the Chinese bookmakers, who earlier on might have been happy enough to see Goodyear shanghaied. Anyway he saw no reason to discourage the rumour.’
‘Hoyle now had also to quickly think of a place in which to hold Goodyear that was close enough by for him to work him over, yet was also secure and escape proof. He thought of the big chestnut, Bull, and his owner’s terror of him, which you’ll recall Chelsea had mentioned to us, George. If Goodyear was half-drugged, gagged and hidden behind some bales in Bull’s box, which no-one but the trainer himself dared enter, Goodyear could be kept until he could be persuaded to sign backdated papers voiding the amended will.’
‘Where is Goodyear now?’
‘As far as I know he’s still in Bull’s stall.’
‘Does Chelsea know?’
‘As a matter of fact I spoke with Chelsea on the phone about half an hour ago,’ Gallagher said. ‘I’ve told her the whole story. I imagine she’s at the stables now, or on her way. I advised her to take the vet Perry Grainger with her to shoot a few tranquiliser darts into the big stallion before she tries to free her father.’
‘From what you are saying I gather Chelsea had no part in the plot against her father?’
‘No, although I had my doubts when we overheard her talking about throwing out his colours.’ Gallagher smiled ruefully. ’I’d forgotten the type of girl Chelsea is. She did not like the colours for aesthetic reasons, and also because they were at least twenty years old and threadbare. Goodyear might have been willing to throw money to mugs at the races for a photo opportunity, but he didn’t believe in tossing it around at home. No, she is appalled by what Hoyle has done to her father. I wouldn’t be rushing out to buy engagement presents.’
‘She is finished with Dylan Hoyle?’
‘Almost. She said she would like a few minutes alone with him.’
‘What about the police?’ asked Forbes, looking worried. ‘Have you told them where Goodyear is?’
‘Not yet. Why are you are always so anxious about the police?’ Gallagher complained. ‘I guess they’ll put in an appearance in their own good time.’
'Now, let’s go back to the original premise behind all this: that Goodyear had been taken by a shark. From the start I found these explanations, if you’ll pardon the expression, hard to swallow. I didn’t buy the idea of a shark seizing him from his surf paddle, or sea-going Chinese Boxers, or ‘vengeful crayons’ or whatever, abducting him. But it was only when I spoke to Sir Bonnor that I could articulate reasons why the shark argument didn’t sell me—a shark attack in the middle of winter, the species of shark suggested by the teeth, the water temperature, Goodyear’s olive complexion; all these things. Of course, once it became clear that some joker had glued the shark teeth into the ski you didn’t need the Homicide boys to tell you there was a crook in the offing. If the real cops, and the media, had interviewed Sir Bonnor professionally in the first place, this shark story would have been scratched at the barrier.’
‘What made Hoyle think he could get away with such a far-fetched tale?’
‘He has Australians near the bottom of the weights in the intelligence stakes. And it’s true that racing people have historically demonstrated unblinking faith in the most improbable schemes. You only have to think of some of the long-shots they’ve backed over the years; Grafter Kingsley’s tunnels under the jockeys’ scales to rig weigh-ins; The Harry Solomons affair in Melbourne where the radio broadcast cable was cut; the ludicrous Erbie ring-ins of the 1930s. Really, how did any of them think they would get away with it?’
‘Probably there’s been lots of rorts over the years that did come off that we know nothing about,’ Forbes said.
‘Probably,’ conceded Gallagher, smiling, ‘just as well the officials are a bit smarter these days.’
‘But back up for a moment,’ Rowe demanded, ’how did you discover in the first place that Hoyle was involved in the shark hoax?’
’Sir Bonnor here had already attracted my attention to the substance used to secure the shark teeth—which by the way Hoyle picked up in the Solomons during his trans-Pacific cruise—in the surf ski. At the stables Hoyle had boasted of being a futurist. In this again he was truthful. He was very interested in the latest technological advances in racehorse training, especially any that would give him an edge locally. One of the reasons he and Chelsea had taken their cruise—apart from the chance for a ship-board romance away from old-man Goodyear—was for him to visit the leading thoroughbred stables in the States at the end of it. He was very impressed by advances in shoeing. American farriers have created a glue-on shoe that can be used on horses with flaky hooves that are difficult to shoe using nails. This stuff, which is also waterproof, is so new that few people in Australian racing have heard of it, yet—but as it happens, I was one of them. I wondered at the time if Hoyle was as well. That morning at the stable I had a quick peek in the saddlery as we walked past. I saw a jar of the resin, which is marketed as ‘No-Nails’, on a shelf next to some glue-on shoes. The Jockey Club chemist has compared it with the stuff found on the surf-ski. It is identical. But no-one in this country would have associated it with racehorses; not even you, Sir Bonnor.’
‘Okay, so much for the shark, for the moment. Share with me how you uncovered this whip chicanery.’
‘Your remark in George’s office, Jim, about how, when Miller had dropped his whip in the welter run just before the disappearance of Goodyear, it had been the second such occurrence in a few months, set me thinking. I went back to the office later that night to check the stewards’ reports, and sure enough Miller had also been the rider the first time a whip was dropped, and Solander the horse. Reason suggested if something was going on, then Miller was part of it. I did some more homework on the betting moves. Then I saw Dylan Hoyle working on a whip when we walked into the stables last Thursday; I thought; “Here’s the connection”.’
‘That was rather careless of him, wasn’t it?’ Forbes suggested.
Rowe winced. ’Though I hardly care to highlight it, I should point out Hoyle was expecting me alone. He knew nothing of our new star gumshoe here. Evidently he feared me like he might the Keystone Kops.’
'Don’t feel bad; he has such a high opinion of himself he thought he was too clever to be caught out by any race club wage-earner. Look at how quickly he changed the stable’s racing colours to a set of his own, emblazoned with his initials; that was a gesture of Napoleonic arrogance. But to go on; I by now had growing suspicions of Hoyle’s involvement in both the shark plot and whatever was going on with the whip. The question I could not answer at that time was “how does your jockey dropping his whip provide an advantage?”—especially in the case of a horse like Solander, who you’ll remember I had identified as a lazy old fellow that needs plenty of encouragement to hit the line hard. When we walked into the stable that day and I saw Hoyle repairing a whip, a possibility occurred to me; what if Miller had been using a jigger—a battery—on Solander? It was risky; what if, by chance, someone got suspicious and wanted to take a closer look at the jockey’s crop after the race? Well, why not have the jockey drop the whip after the shock was applied and have a stooge among the track-workers make sure he was the first on the scene to pick up the whip? Under his dust jacket could be concealed a second whip, constructed identically to the first—except, of course, that it wasn’t loaded with a jigger. The track worker could hand the second whip to Miller as the jockeys dismounted; I’ve seen such exchanges any number of times after a race. Miller takes it with him to the weigh-in. If anyone smells a rat and wants to take a closer look, they would find a legitimate riding crop. The trackman leaves, still concealing the jigger whip under his coat. Correct weight is declared, and the plotters collect the ill-gotten dollars. This, as we have now confirmed, is pretty much what happened.’
‘When and how did Goodyear get this whip brainwave?’
‘It came in the aftermath to his casinos going broke. Primarily it was intended to provide the money to pay off the Americans. Goodyear decided to fall back on his legendary luck at the track. At first he stuck to legitimate means but he found good fortune had finally deserted him. He wasn’t helped by Hoyle, who kept him in ignorance of which stable horses were really ready to win, so far as he could without losing his confidence.’
‘As time went on Goodyear, unaccustomed to dealing with a long losing trot, and unsuited by temperament for it, became desperate. This was about the time that he developed a nervous tic. It wasn’t much longer before he decided that he needed some sort of advantage. His mind went back to his early days on the track, in the 1930s, when the use of jiggers—batteries concealed in whips and saddles—had been as common in Sydney as, well—’
‘Shark attacks?’ Rowe suggested sardonically.
‘Well yes. In that decade the respective authorities decided it was time to crack down on both. Shark patrols and towers were introduced on beaches; stewards’ towers and patrol films and other surveillance methods came in at the races. The use of jiggers became fairly easy to spot, and so they went out of fashion. After the war battery use on racecourses was almost all legitimate and limited to innocent devices like transistor radios. Goodyear needed an edge and decided that everyone had long forgotten about batteries’ fraudulent possibilities and if he was smart he could get away with using a jigger once, or maybe twice.’
’Unfortunately for Goodyear he decided in order to make it work he must share his plan with Hoyle, who was appalled at first and wanted no part of it. He came however to appreciate its ingenious simplicity and that there were few risks. Those there were lay in the several accomplices required for its execution. But he had some prime prospects for collaborators that were so desperate they could be relied on, if you follow me; Spongy Miller, the one time champion jockey, now a broken drunk, so much in need of cash he would bring down half a field if paid to, and Johnston and McGuire, racetrack scum who would sell out their own mothers for a day’s betting stake. Being based at Randwick, Hoyle knew them well; Johnston had in fact served his apprenticeship in the stables next door to Igloo Prince Lodge on High Street. None of them needed to be asked twice to leave the rails.’
’So Goodyear and Hoyle gathered their operatives and prepared for the first use of the battery, for which they coined the code phrase ‘slot car racing’. The sting went off unnoticed and without a hitch; the one possible signifier, the dropping of the whip, was unquestioningly accepted as one of those inconsequential incidents that happen in an afternoon’s turf. Goodyear, courtesy of a massive off-course plunge on Solander, recovered most of the money he owed the Americans. Had he been allowed to call quits after the first race-day use of the jigger, maybe he’d still be squire at Igloo Prince Lodge. But Hoyle ensured that did not happen. Again he confounded Goodyear’s plans by a mixture of lies and disobedience of orders so that, within a few months, Goodyear was once more going broke and Hoyle was able to convince him of the need for a second use of the jigger. This time, though, although Goodyear believed that the jigger was being carried, Miller, on Hoyle’s orders, used a legal whip. The business of the dropping of the whip was performed so that it would seem to Goodyear that his instructions were being followed.’
‘You haven’t yet explained fully what tipped you off Goodyear and Hoyle were up to no good,’ Rowe pointed out.
’The truth is that even before you and I visited Igloo Prince Lodge, George, I was pretty sure that Goodyear, and probably Hoyle as well, were involved in some sort of betting scam, because of the on-course betting on the two races in which Miller dropped the whip on Solander. I made reference to this at our first meeting. I went more deeply into it later. As I said back then, in virtually all races bookmakers open with a tight market and gradually ease the price of the majority of starters. They do this because they do not want to be the one caught out if a big plunge is on. Normally a market might be set at say 140 percent—the bookmaker having an advantage of 40 percent over the real odds—and end up at 115 percent. But on the occasion of Solander’s defeat in the second welter, the market evolved in almost exactly the opposite way, opening at an unusually generous 110 percent, before tightening to 138 percent. It took me a while to figure what this irregularity might mean; that the bookmakers had initially been very confident about the outcome of the race, but something had happened in the course of betting that had badly shaken that confidence. I looked to the market moves on Solander for explanation. The horse opened very short, but the rest of the field was at such long odds that there was still overall a low percentage bookmakers’ advantage. Clearly the market was very sure of Solander winning. However half way through betting the price of the second favourite, Montego, plummeted. But there was no easing in Solander’s price, and the market ended at 138 per cent. The bookmakers had gone from wanting to lay bets on anything bar Solander, to not wanting to lay a bet on either Solander or Montego. Why? It seemed liked they had been getting contradictory mail. Finally that night I rang an on course bookmaker that owed me a big favour; never mind why. I asked him for the story behind the betting on the welter of 22 June. At first he refused, but I was insistent. Finally he talked. There was a very strong suspicion among the books that a battery had been used on Solander on 13 April, and that it was to be used again that afternoon. That would explain, of course, that initial confidence. However half way through betting the bookie’s secret service sent through a bulletin that there had been an unprecedented off-course betting move on the second favourite, Montego, that had been orchestrated by—sound the call to the post—Dylan Hoyle.’
‘Good Lord!’ Rowe cried, spilling his scotch.
Gallagher resumed. ‘Hoyle had talked Goodyear into letting him place the starting price wagers—so much for him not being a betting man—but he was sure that at the weights Solander was not good enough to win that race without electrical assistance, and also he knew that Miller would be without a whip for the final furlong. Nevertheless he placed the enormous Goodyear credit commission with the off-course bookmakers immediately after the previous race. He did this so to ensure Goodyear plunged back into debt. The SPs’ agents laid off their liabilities in the on-course ring, with the result that Solander’s opening price was more than halved. In the last five minutes of betting, Hoyle’s commission agent stepped in and backed the second favourite for him. Solander, of course, lost. Hoyle made a killing; Goodyear lost a small fortune.’
‘So now we have, I judge, the full background to the affair, and we have witnessed its dramatic finale here today,’ said Sir Bonnor. ‘What I want now, young man, is a precise explanation of how you planned and organised your campaign to confound this malefactor Hoyle.’
‘Well, after events at the stable I had a theory about what had happened in those two races and the truth behind the Goodyear disappearance. The question was, what was I going to do about it? You had, George, more or less commissioned me to take the case before I visited Sir Bonnor at the zoo. I had started out without serious intentions but I had to my surprise made a lot of progress. Was I to continue on, and if so, how? I’ll admit I had taken an immediate and intense dislike to this feller Hoyle and would be more than pleased to contribute in any way to his downfall. But I needed some confirmation that my theory was correct, and I had to work quickly to make arrangements, in the expectation that Hoyle would accept the challenge and try the whip scam again today. He guessed I knew something about the whip, but how much? I was convinced that he would pretend to prepare for the use of the jigger, but would in fact tell Miller to carry a legitimate whip—the idea being, of course, that when I jumped in and accused him of using a tricked-up whip, his man Johnston would produce the regular one that he thought Miller had carried. I would have made a monumental fool of myself and almost certainly ended my career as a racing official. All this was to be pay back for me cheeking him and making a play at Chelsea.’
‘Anyway, both trails—confirmation and preparation—led me directly to Spongy Miller dreaming of t-bone steaks over a scotch and ice at the Epsom Hotel Kensington last Thursday. But before confronting him there was some research I had to undertake back in the office. I rang an acquaintance of mine with interests in off-course betting trends—’
‘An SP bookmaker!’ Rowe ejaculated.
‘He prefers the more genteel title of “unregistered turf accountant”. Anyway, I needed some off-course data to confirm the betting evolutions I had identified on course, and also to corroborate the mail I had received from my on course bookie friend. The SP talked, and what he told me you have already heard most of the details of; basically that on the occasion of the first whip sting Solander was backed heavily throughout the day, but the second time there was money early—Goodyear’s money—but in the lead-up to the race that was switched around and at the post the only horse wanted was Montego. This was reflected in the strange on-course trends. So it all added up to this point.’
’The next step for me was to check about the track worker; for the scheme to work Hoyle must have had a stooge among them, one that had worked on both 13 April and June 22, when the whips were dropped. I rang George to ask for the rosters, and got a nasty surprise when I learnt that nobody had worked both days. For a moment I thought I’d got it all wrong, but then I spotted the names of this Heckle and Jeckle pair, this Johnston and McGuire. George confirmed my impression that they ran off each other, so that was okay, too.’
‘On Thursday just after 11am I rang the racing office to see if Hoyle had accepted with any horses for Saturday. He had, with Solander, and I have to admit to feeling some admiration for his damn cheek. I saw this, quite rightly I think, as a direct challenge to me. I immediately accepted it. My idea was to take Johnston out of the picture and substitute an operative of my own. At short notice I thought of our friend Corky; he may not be the hardest worker on the Jockey Club’s books, but he’s without doubt the biggest stirrer and pest; two qualities I thought made him well suited for this job. I pointed out the benefits to him and very soon he was as keen a foot soldier as you could wish for. He went off to a joke shop for a false moustache and glasses to disguise himself, and waited for the day.’
'When I joined Spongy at the Epsom his opinion was that running into me twice in one day was at least once too often. He came on tough like he was the new Squizzy Taylor at first, but I made a loaded remark about him being “ever ready” to cooperate with Hoyle, but that the “jig was up”, which showed as I intended that I knew about the battery in the whip, without revealing that was all I knew and that I had no proof. Anyway, it worked; Miller folded and agreed to double-cross Hoyle and the others.’
‘So having recruited him I gave Spongy his riding instructions. Hoyle had again judged that without the assistance of the jigger Solander could not win today’s race. I didn’t agree this time and thought I could upset Hoyle. Although he had nearly ten stone I thought Solander was well weighted in this field. I put together a speed map, and it suggested to me that if Miller went to the lead he could keep it uncontested if he maintained a good pace. So I told Miller that when Solander jumped near the lead, as he always does, instead of easing he should press on. It was my judgement that he could establish a big enough lead to hang on to win. And so it proved; just. My other instructions were as important as how to ride; that whatever Hoyle told him he must carry the jigger-whip in the race, but that by no means should he shock the horse. The whip electrode is in the handle so a horse may be whipped legitimately without it being shocked. Spongy was to drop the whip near the furlong, as in the previous races. Naturally he was not to pass on Hoyle’s instructions to Johnston, nor was he to wait for the whip to be returned to him after the race. Keep out of Hoyle’s way, so far as possible, after the race, and by no means turn up at the inquiry.’
Gallagher paused and smiled a little sheepishly. ‘I told Spongy to increase the voltage on the jigger a little; well, to double it, in fact. I wanted to make sure Mr Hoyle was “galvanised” when I tested the whip on him.’
‘Well, Rod, your explanation of how you unravelled this mare’s nest and planned your operations has been splendid,’ Rowe commented. ‘But I still don’t see how you gathered all this background information in little more than 72 hours.’
‘I’m tempted to say, “you know my methods, Watson”—seriously, a lot of my information about Hoyle and Goodyear’s illegal activities I got from Miller. The betting details came from my bookmaker friends and intensive analysis of wagering trends. You can also learn a lot from back issues of the racing papers. Chelsea just now filled in about the Goodyear stable arrangements and her south-seas travels with Hoyle. You George, and you Jim, have informed me much better than you realise. The rest you might call well-informed speculation.’
'Your handling of the case has been a tour de force!’ Coppertone complimented him.
Rowe drained the last of his tumbler of scotch and returned the stopper to the decanter. ‘I have during the afternoon informed Sir Lawrie Facey of the day’s remarkable events and the sudden departure of Dylan Hoyle. He is concerned that the story will almost certainly find its way into the press and the courts. Can you offer him any reassurance on that score?’
Gallagher thought hard for a moment. 'I cannot see that going to the papers or the police is in the interest of any of the bad guys. Hoyle will be seeking revenge for the loss of Chelsea and Igloo Prince Lodge, no doubt, but he faces a charge of fraud if he goes to the law. I still expect him to clear out. Goodyear’s reappearance is bound to set tongues wagging and journalists on the scent but I do not for once see him welcoming the media. He has lost face in this affair and for a man of his ego that is the worst conceivable punishment. I would expect him to go underground immediately and would not be surprised if he attempted to leave the country again—though probably not by surf-ski! Spongy Miller, Johnston and McGuire are in the same boat, having broken a whole raft of the rules of racing; they also could be faced with fraud charges. No, I think we are in a position to keep our mouths shut and wait for the other side to make the next move, if any.’
‘Speaking of moves, I had better get one on,’ said Forbes, consulting his watch. ‘I have agreed to help out at the Harold Park dog meeting tonight. It will make a nice change to only have to deal with dumb dish lickers and their honest Panania handlers and not sharks, celebrity owners and trainers, electrified whips and what-not.’
‘And I have a dinner engagement at the Union Club,’ chimed in George Rowe. ‘Care to split the cost of a cab, Jim?’
Rod Gallagher was left alone with Sir Bonnor Coppertone. ‘What about you, Sir Bonnor? Have you had enough fieldwork for one day?’
‘Lady Coppertone has, at any rate. She has returned with the limousine to Copper Beeches, our residence. I have some business to attend to back at Taronga, in the aquarium. Yesterday we received an important new exhibit. I want to see how it is settling in.’
‘Then please allow me to drive you there, if you don’t mind a more modest conveyance,’ Gallagher offered. ‘I’m currently in a room at Mosman.’
* * * * *
As his car was leaving the racecourse via the course crossing near the turn into the back straight, Gallagher glanced up at the nearby stewards’ tower. Ascending its ladder was Corky Corcoran, being followed by a female that Gallagher recognised with some difficultly as the young schoolgirl—the pretty one—that he had last seen on the outbound Taronga ferry, lately referred to as Bon-Bon Kate. She had abandoned her demur school uniform for a Carnaby Street-style checked mini skirt and white boots. Corky had reached the top of the ladder and was working on the trapdoor in the floor, which gave access to the tower’s interior. He looked down and recognised Gallagher, who had wound down his window with the intention of demanding to know what Corcoran was playing at. The youth placed a pantomime finger to his lips and then made a begging gesture with his linked hands. Gallagher frowned, but rewound his window. Corky grinned and pulled down the brim of his hat. The car was held up for some time joining the traffic of the main road. Looking into the rear-view mirror, Gallagher fancied that the tower was now swaying, but decided that his imagination was getting the better of him, and carried on.
On the long trip from Rosehill to Taronga Zoo Gallagher and Sir Bonnor discussed a number of racing subjects, and several touching on the work of the zoo. Gallagher spoke about the significance of horseracing in Australian culture in which the man of science, who was also a noted humanist, expressed great interest and surprise. When the pair reached the zoo Sir Bonnor asked Gallagher if he would like a preview of the new exhibit. Gallagher immediately accepted, despite being enormously tired by the length and stress of the day he had experienced.
A security guard immediately admitted Sir Bonnor to the zoo grounds, which were in darkness. He obtained a powerful torch each for himself and his guest. Having flicked his on, he invited Gallagher to follow him down the asphalt path that led to the aquarium. In a few minutes they had reached the old rendered structure and Sir Bonnor opened the padlocked gates. They gained the main foyer, which was minimally lit, and then walked to the main tank, which was the home of the grey nurses, skippers one and two. Coppertone excused himself a moment, telling Gallagher that he had to enter a small closet to activate the main lights. A few seconds later there was a click and floodlights threw the area into zones of contrasting brilliant light, and shadow.
Sir Bonnor rejoined Gallagher where he waited a few yards from the poolside. ‘Now I wish to show you this remarkable new specimen the zoo received yesterday. It is more than a little ironic, given the course of events in the Goodyear case, that—’
The ichthyologist stopped mid-sentence and stared with rounded eyes at something over Gallagher’s right shoulder.
‘Turn around and face me, Gallagher. I’m not going to do you the favour of shooting you in the back.’
Gallagher turned as ordered. He had no need to see the face of his assailant, as he had recognised the voice of Dylan Hoyle immediately. He might not have recognised the face anyway, so distorted was it with hatred. Hoyle still wore the suit and linen he had that morning to the races, though their quality, which had been so evident then, had been effaced by his experiences of the day. His hat was gone and his hair, of which he was normally so particular, appeared not to have been groomed since the fateful inquiry into the Welter Handicap hours earlier.
Hoyle was covering Gallagher with a small pistol at his hip.
Coppertone swore. ‘How did you find your way here Hoyle?’
‘You’re forgetting, “Colonel Grosse”,’ Hoyle responded, ’that I am a racehorse trainer, and consequently well used to sneaking around in the dark. And I hitched a ride here from Rosehill in the boot of your car, Mr Gallagher. Of course, I should be referring to myself as a trainer in the past tense. I think I will enjoy referring to you in the past tense more, Gallagher.’
‘Take the blinkers off Hoyle. Get out of here and the country while you can. You’ll gain nothing from killing me.’
‘I’ll get a great deal of satisfaction out of it, if nothing else. I’ll also know that you won’t be getting your filthy convict hands onto Chelsea, which has been your bloody aim all along, hasn’t it?’
Hoyle, in his excitement, had forgotten to follow the ground rules when covering someone, inasmuch as he had not made Gallagher empty his hands and raise them. Consequently Gallagher still held the large silver torch Coppertone had issued him at the beginning of their descent from the main gate.
‘So you’re going to kill me?’ Gallagher asked.
‘You’re the betting supervisor. Figure the odds.’
‘What about Sir Bonnor?’
Hoyle shrugged. ‘I’m none-too-keen on animal rights activists. Bloody trouble makers.’
Gallagher waited for no more. He lobbed the silver torch above Hoyle’s head. It rotated slowly, flashing in and out of the light. The move had the effect Gallagher had hoped for, as Hoyle momentarily raised his eyes to follow its course. Gallagher leapt forward and struck Hoyle with a ‘ball and all’ tackle such as had been his trademark in his days as a breakaway for the Country rugby first fifteen. Together they plunged over the guard rail on which Corky had almost overbalanced days earlier. An instant later with a shock of cold Gallagher realised he was in the pool. On impact with its surface the lock in which he and Hoyle had been engaged was broken. Gallagher’s head broke the surface and violently turned either way, looking for his opponent. Instead he saw Coppertone waving extravagantly at him from poolside. It took a moment for Gallagher’s ears to clear.
’Leave the pool immediately, Mr Gallagher! There is a ladder about 20 yards to your right.’
Gallagher paused long enough to ask, ‘Aren’t the grey nurses harmless?’
’The new exhibit is in there as well. It’s a tiger shark.’
’It’s a what?’
‘And it hasn’t fed for a week. Feel your away along the pool wall,’ Coppertone ordered. ‘Whatever you do don’t splash!’
Gallagher began his progression immediately, hauling himself along the pool’s perimeter. In ten seconds his right hand had found the rail of the aluminium ladder, which he immediately mounted. He struggled to climb, impeded by the weight of the water trapped in his woollen suit. He feared every moment to feel his calf being torn apart. At last he was clear of the water. He flung himself breathlessly away from the upper loops of the ladder.
‘Where’s Hoyle?’ he asked Coppertone, who had assisted him the final feet of his ascent from the pool.
‘Still in the water. Over there,’ Coppertone said, pointing to the middle of the pool.
Hoyle was flailing madly, trying to initiate a dog paddle. His head several times dipped under the water. ‘Help!’ he managed to cry during one of his short intervals at the surface. He had time for no exposition.
Coppertone rushed to a small shed beneath one of the public seating areas. ‘He can’t swim. There’s a lifebuoy in here. Mark his position!’ he ordered.
Gallagher did so. Within a second he saw a shadow peel from one of the shaded edges of the pool, circle momentarily, then dart at the struggling Hoyle. There was a scream. Horrified, but unable to look away, Gallagher rushed to the fence to see more clearly what was taking place in the pool. There was another scream, and billows of blood quickly discoloured the pool’s water. Hoyle was no longer surfacing. Coppertone rushed forward with the buoy and flung it into the pool, though it fell well short of the location of the last sighting of Hoyle. The buoy floated listlessly on the reddened water. Twenty seconds passed without development. Finally Gallagher turned to Coppertone and said, ’Well, it’s not going to be easy to keep this out of the papers.’
Coppertone was dreadfully pale. ‘I won’t pretend to be upset at the demise of this man Hoyle, who was committed to our extinction. But I now wonder about the wisdom of releasing this tiger shark into an unprotected public area.’
Gallagher patted the knight on the back. ’I’ve got to tell you something, Sir Bonnor. It wasn’t the tiger that did him.’
Coppertone returned a blank stare, then gasped. ‘You mean it was one of the nurses? Are you certain?’
There was a pause. ‘Well, I’ll be kippered!’ announced the ichthyologist, scratching his head. ’I wonder if it’s not too late to cancel the print-run of the second edition of Nasty Sharks? I think it might require a re-write.’
* * * * *
Several months later a small pleasure launch laid anchor in a protected bay in the upper reaches of Sydney’s Middle Harbour. It was high summer, a blazing hot day just into the new year. Rod Gallagher, who was piloting the boat, secured the anchor rope and reached for a large picnic hamper that was set in the shade near the entrance to the cabin. He opened the cabin door and called into its interior, ‘Are you ready for lunch, darling?’
‘I’ll be with you in a moment, dear,’ a woman’s voice responded.
Gallagher stepped back. A gorgeous woman in a bikini quickly ascended the steps from below deck. She was tucking her golden hair into a swimming cap. She smiled at Gallagher and gave him a peck on the cheek.
‘Christ, Chelsea, you’re not thinking of swimming here!’
‘Of course. Why not?’
‘It’s not a hundred yards from here that that actress was taken a few years ago.’
‘Oh, you and your sharks! Honestly, if there was as many about as you imagine it would be possible to walk across the water on their backs! Hasn’t Sir Bonnor cured your—what’s that long word?’
‘Selachophobia.’ Gallagher smiled. ‘Not entirely.’
Chelsea moved to the stern of the boat and began to descend a small ladder into the water.
‘I’m just going to take a quick dip to cool off. Sha’n’t be long.’
‘Remember I’m to pick up Corky and Bon-Bon from the yacht club in half an hour,’ said Gallagher.
Chelsea swam a few strokes from the boat, then dived. Immediately she disappeared from view beneath the murky waters.
Gallagher waited for her to resurface, his hand white with the strength of his grip on the boat’s railing. When still a punter he’d believed the tension of a long photo finish was intense, but it was nothing compared to this. Seconds passed. There was a swirl in the water. Something was surfacing about twenty yards from the boat.