home. I looked once more at the man I had known only as shifty-eyed Kipper, with his eyes set rather too close together for the shape of his face, the man I’d last seen laughing at me as he’d tried to overtake me on the road to Leek Wooton.

“So is that it?” I’d said.

“For the moment,” the chief inspector had replied cautiously. “But I still have a niggling feeling you haven’t told me the whole truth.”

He was, I supposed, quite a good detective, really.

Thanks to the nearly six-hundred-thousand-pound generosity of Mr. Henry Richard Feldman, Sophie and I traveled upstairs, in Club Class, from London to Sydney on a British Airways jumbo jet, sipping vintage champagne for most of the way.

It had taken a little while for Tony Bateman (Turf Accountants) Ltd to pay out on the juvenile delinquents’ bets, but they had been persuaded by HRF Holdings Ltd, their parent company, to see sense in the end.

Only two of the thirty had failed to make the bet, instead pocketing the two-hundred-pound stake. They were now ruing their mistake to the tune of four thousand eight hundred smackers, as well as the well-earned derision of the other twenty-eight.

Duggie and Luca had given some of their own winnings to refit the electronics club with new equipment, and I’d spent a couple of thousand of mine on some more comfortable dining chairs for the mental hospital grand salon.

Just in case.

The source of all our riches, the horse Oriental Suite, now running as Cricket Hero, had raced twice more since Bangor-on-Dee, winning easily on both occasions, but at starting prices far shorter than our hundred-to-one bonanza of July. His trainer, Miles Carpenter, also known to me as Mr. Paddy Murphy, had stated in a television interview that he hoped the horse would win at the Cheltenham Steeplechase Festival the following March.

However, according to reports in the Racing Post in early December, Cricket Hero had suffered a massive heart attack at home on the gallops and had dropped stone dead. “Just one of those things,” the paper had said. “Sadly, it happens all too often in racing.”

I, meanwhile, wondered if it had actually been that particular horse which had died, if table-tennis balls had been involved and whether or not he’d been insured for a small fortune.

Sophie and I landed in Sydney at six in the morning on a glorious January, Southern Hemisphere summer day just as the sun began to peep over the horizon to the east. I had a wonderful view of the city as we approached from the north, with the still-dark Sydney Harbour Bridge spanning a ribbon of early light reflected from the water beneath.

I was so excited.

I had always wanted to go to Australia, even before I had discovered that my father had been living there. Somehow, to me it still represented the new frontier of man’s occupation of the planet, although I am sure the Aboriginal people would have viewed things somewhat differently.

All the way from England on the airplane, I had read my guidebooks and, by the time we arrived in Sydney, I’d become a bit of an expert on all things Australian.

The very first sighting by a European of what is now Australia didn’t take place until 1606, by which time William Shakespeare was writing and performing his plays in London, and Christopher Columbus had known about the Americas for more than a hundred years. The very first settlers, together with the first convicts, didn’t arrive to set up a penal colony in Botany Bay for almost another two centuries and some twelve years after the United States had declared its independence from Britain.

By European standards, Australia is vast and still rather empty. The land area is nearly twice that of the whole of the European Union while the population is less than a twentieth. If spread out evenly, only seven Australians would live in each square mile of their country, whereas more than a thousand would occupy the same space in England.

But, according to my guidebooks, the Australians are not spread out evenly, with nine out of ten of them living in the major coastal cities. Meanwhile, much of the interior is barren, uninhabited desert, with such original names as the “Great Sandy Desert” and the “Little Sandy Desert.” However, there is also tropical rain forest covering a great swathe of the state of Queensland in the northeast.

In fact, I was astounded by the diversity of physical geography that exists within a single country. But I supposed I shouldn’t have been. Australia stretches from almost the equator in the north to halfway to Antarctica in the south, and is as far across from east to west as the distance from New York to Los Angeles.

How was I ever going to find my sisters in such a huge country?

Sophie and I had planned to spend the first few days in Sydney, getting over jet lag and doing the things all tourists do.

Courtesy of Tony Bateman, we stayed in a magnificent five-star hotel overlooking the busy harbor. I could have happily sat by the window in our room watching the yellow-and-green harbor ferries shuttling in and out of the wharves on Circular Quay, but Sophie was keen for us to walk everywhere and see everything.

First, we climbed the steps to the Opera House and marveled at the shell-like arches of its iconic roof. Then we trekked around the Botanical Gardens and rested on Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, a seat carved out of the natural rock by the convicts in 1810. The seat has a panoramic view of Sydney Harbour, and, the story goes, Mrs. Macquarie, the governor’s wife, would sit there for hours on end longing to be aboard one of the ships leaving for England and home.

After three days of dawn-to-dusk tourism, including climbing to the very top of the Harbour Bridge, Sophie and I were exhausted, and our sore feet were grateful for the short breather as we flew the hour or so to Melbourne.

Before we’d left England, I had used the Internet to engage a private detective to help in the search for my sisters, and he was waiting for us at Melbourne Airport.

“Lachlan Harris?” I asked a young man holding up a TALBOT sign at the baggage claim.

“Sure am,” he said. “But call me Lachie.” He was short, about thirty, with a well-bronzed face and spiky fairish hair, with highlights.

“Ned Talbot,” I said, shaking his hand. “And this is my wife, Sophie.”

“G’day,” he said in typical Australian fashion. He shook her hand too. “Good to meet you both.”

“Any news?” I asked, eager to hear immediately. I had purposely not called him from Sydney, although, at times, I had been quite desperate to do so.

“Yes,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I have some good news for you. But let’s get out of the airport first. I’m taking you to see your father’s house.” And, with that, he picked up our suitcases and turned for the exit. We followed, but I was rather frustrated by his lack of explanation.

“All in good time,” he said when we were in his car leaving the airport.

“But what’s the news?” I asked him again.

“I’ve found the two daughters of Mr. Alan Grady,” he said.

“My sisters,” I said, all excited like a young child on Christmas morning.

“Yes,” he said. “As you say, your sisters.” He didn’t go on.

“And?” I asked eagerly. “When can I meet them?”

“There’s a slight problem,” he said.

“What problem?”

“They don’t believe you’re their brother.”

“What?” I cried. It wasn’t something that I had even considered. “Why not?”

“They say they have documentary evidence that shows their father, Alan Charles Grady, was born in Melbourne in March 1948. I’ve checked with the State of Victoria Record Office,” Lachie said. “Alan Charles Grady was indeed born in the Royal Melbourne Hospital on March 15, 1948. I’ve got a copy of his birth certificate.” He removed a folded sheet of paper from his jacket pocket and handed it over.

Mr. John Smith, or whoever he was, had told me in my car near Stratford that my father’s “Alan Grady” birth

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