The bar was often referred to by its regular patrons, the men who really didn't want to go home to their wives, as the 19th hole. It was an in-joke that had long lost its comedic value.
Robert was propping on the end of the bar, the end that overlooked the 18th hole, where sometimes there was a little excitement as the scorecards were tallied and money changed hands, sometimes a lot of it. There had also been a few heated arguments.
Their father was a great believer in having incentives to do their best, putting wagers on the outcome of a hole, something Harry never took up because he would always end up with the most strokes, and Robert accepted because he thought he was better than everyone else, and invariably proved otherwise.
His IOU to the father amounted to thousands, and Harry doubted he would ever pay up.
But Robert was a golf fanatic, getting a round in with his cronies who had nothing better to do, nor had a job to go to, whenever they called. They didn't work for a living, but Robert never let the fact he had a job interfere in his leisure time. Harry couldn't see Robert's friends, and since Robert was dressed in a suit, there had to be another reason why he was propping up the bar.
Harry slid onto the stool next to his brother. Robert gave a sidelong glance then went back to staring at the amber liquid in the bottom of the glass. He picked it up, swirled the glass so the ice rattled, and then drank.
He put the glass noisily on the counter and signalled for another when he caught the barkeeper's eye. When the barkeeper looked at Harr he just pointed at Robert's glass.
No need to start a tab, the barkeepers knew everyone, and the drinks went on the bill automatically. Harry shuddered to think what Robert's bar tab would be like, the club was his second home.
"You are a fish out of water, Harry."
His general expression for his brother when he embraced the trappings of a family Harry didn't really want.
"You should be at the office."
"I work my own hours."
"When Dad's not there, you mean."
Robert looked sideways again at his brother. "What's Sherlock Holme's dumber brother doing here?"
Yes, Harry thought, that joke was getting a little tired, but it humoured his brothers, all of who had contempt for his chosen profession.
"On Dad's trail."
"In case you haven't noticed, he's not here."
"We're you here a month back when he had a brain fade after a phone call?"
"If it was here, it was probably an irate husband, in fact, there are only two types of calls he gets these days. Irate clients and irate husbands. Then we all have to clean up the mess."
"Things not going well?"
"Who knows. It's a war between Dad and that dreadful woman Grandfather left behind. Neither of them will do anything unless it outdoes the other. To be honest I'm sick of being caught in the crossfire."
The bartender dropped the two drinks in front of us with a nod. A bit early to be drinking, but if I guessed correctly, it would be the equivalent of liquid gold.
Harry took a sip. Liquid gold, indeed. And a hefty dent in his bar tab.
"You know of anything he's been working on currently that might be, say, complicated?"
"You know Dad. All cloak and dagger, to him. The last time he was Luke this, he was seeing that Argeter chap. Never liked him, cheats at golf, and that sets the mark as far as I'm concerned. Why Dad tolerates him is anyone's guess."
Harry had seen him from time to time. And his mother was equally adamant the man was bad news. And, exactly what he was after. A lead.
"I'll look into him."
"You want my advice, don't. I reckon he has some very dangerous friends, none of whom would take kindly to a private investigator snooping around."
"All the more reason then."
"Your funeral, Harry. I thought the last time you stared death in the face you'd come to your senses. Apparently not."
If he was looking to get Harry to leave him alone, he had touched the right nerve. On top of his brother’s contempt for Harry's chosen profession, he seemed to think Harry's recent brush with death was a wake-up call to return to the fold. It hadn't, and paradoxically, had only made him more determined to excel."
"Perks of the job Robert. You could also finish up on the wrong end of a gun yourself if you follow in Dad's footsteps. Just think about that."
Harry finished his drink, gave his brother one last glare, and then left.
The locker room was not the most awe-inspiring place. Harry had a collection of mixed memories of the place, where men gathered in groups in various stages of dress, on their way to and from the showers, most without any sense of decorum.
Others spoke in disparaging yards of their wives, girlfriends, work colleagues, and life in general, a place where they believed they could speak freely.
Harry had always been surprised by it all, learning all too quickly that the world was never quite what it seemed behind the polite discussion and sympathetic smiles.
Today or was almost too quiet, with the odd golfer on his way out onto the course, and no brash conversation. Ideal, in fact, for what Harry intended.
His father was one of those members who had his locker out of view of the CCTV cameras, put there because of a flare-up after one afternoon's rather intense u sportsmanship spilling over into the room.
Members were divided on the measure, but when the insurance company threatened to pull its cover, they agreed to limited access.
Harry had the door open inside a minute, and took another three, to analyse its contents. He had assumed his father would use this sacred space to hide anything he didn't want anyone else to see, and, to a certain extent, he was right.
A shoe box, at the bottom. Under several old pairs of shoes, a box no one would give a second look.
He pulled it out, lifted the lid and saw a book, what looked like a diary, and several folders.
Not the place to take a look. He'd brought a plastic zipper bag and placed the items in it, then tucked it under his shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles, so that it didn't look as though there was something there. Everyone except Cecil. He'd noticed Harry had suddenly put on weight, so he'd have to use the back exit.
Box back, door closed, he was in and out under five minutes.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022
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