certificate had been genuine, but I hadn’t really believed him.

“It must be a fake,” I said. “Or else my father must have stolen the identity of the real Alan Grady.”

“I’ve checked in the register of deaths,” Lachie said. “No one called Alan Charles Grady who had that birthday has been recorded as dying.”

“Perhaps he died somewhere else, not in Australia.” I said. “Maybe on the ship where my father worked.”

I looked at the birth certificate. Both of Alan Grady’s parents were named, together with their addresses and occupations.

“How about these parents shown on the certificate?” I asked.

“Both dead,” said Lachie. “I checked. It seems they both died in the swine flu epidemic that struck Melbourne in 1976. They were quite old by then, in their seventies. You know, they were elderly parents even when their son was born.”

“Did they have any other children?” I asked him.

“None that I could find.”

“So where does that leave me?” I asked, somewhat deflated.

“I didn’t say the Grady daughters wouldn’t meet you,” he said. “Simply that they don’t accept that you are their brother.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s all right, then. I’ll just have to convince them.”

Lachie Harris drove Sophie and me to Macpherson Street, in Carlton North, and pulled up outside number 312.

It was the middle property of a terrace row of single-story houses, all with verandas and elaborate wrought- iron railings.

“Victorian,” Lachie said. “That’s Victorian by era rather than by the state we’re in.” He laughed at his little joke. “These types of properties are known as ‘Boom Homes,’ as they were built during the boom time of the nineteenth century. After the gold rush of the 1850s.”

“They’re very pretty,” Sophie said. “But they must be dark inside.”

The houses were long and thin from front to back, and, as terrace homes, they had no windows down the sides.

“Can we see?” I asked. “I’ve got the keys.” I showed him the ring and the three keys that had been in my father’s rucksack.

“Ah,” said Lachie apologetically, “I’m afraid we can’t.”

“Why?” I asked. “I am his son.”

“His daughters have taken out an injunction to prevent you entering the property.”

“They’ve done what!” I was astounded.

“Sorry,” said Lachie. “These types of property are worth quite a lot these days, and the Grady daughters tend to believe that you are only here because you are after their inheritance.”

I sat there with my mouth open.

“I don’t want money,” I said, exasperated. “I want family.”

“Nevertheless,” Lachie went on. “This whole business is going to be a legal can of worms. Alan Grady left a will, and, as we all know, where there’s a will, there’s a disgruntled relative.” He laughed again.

“But if there’s a will, then what’s the problem?” I said. “Surely he would have left everything to his daughters anyway.”

“The will is in the name of Alan Charles Grady,” Lachie said,

“and, according to the registry here, he’s not dead. You, meanwhile, claim that the man who owned this house was your father, a Peter James Talbot, now deceased, but it doesn’t say that on the property deeds.”

Now it was me who laughed. Absolutely nothing about my father was as it appeared.

“Can’t we just go and have a quick peep inside?” I said. “No one would ever know.”

“I’m afraid we can’t,” he said. “Those keys might work in the door locks, but they won’t be any good for the padlocks the court has had applied as well.”

“Oh,” I said, peering closely at the house, but it was too dark behind all the lacy ironwork to see the front door properly.

The earlier excitement of my arrival in Australia had evaporated completely. I felt dejected and lost. “So what’s next?” I asked miserably.

“Well, let’s look on the bright side,” he said. “The Grady girls have agreed to meet you, and I have set up the meeting for tomorrow. It’s Australia Day, and we are going to the races.”

“Horse racing?” I asked.

“Yes, of course,” he said. “I’ve arranged for us to meet them at Hanging Rock races tomorrow afternoon.”

“Are they married?” I asked, eager for knowledge. “Do they have children?”

“Not married,” Lachie said. “Can’t say about children, but I don’t think so.”

“Didn’t some schoolgirls once go missing at Hanging Rock?” Sophie said. “During a picnic.”

“That was in a film,” said Lachie. “But it wasn’t a true story.”

“What are their names?” I asked.

“What, the girls in the film?” Lachie said.

“No, silly, the Grady daughters.”

“Patricia and Shannon. Patricia’s the elder. She’s twenty-nine. Shannon is two years younger.”

I was absolutely astounded. My much-maligned but innocent father had apparently named his first Australian daughter after his murdered English wife.

Lachie picked up Sophie and me from our hotel at eleven o’clock the following morning and drove us the hour and a half northwest of the city to Hanging Rock races.

“It’s been a dry summer,” said Lachie as he drove past mile after mile of scorched brown farmland. “There’s a serious bushfire risk at the moment. I’m quite surprised they’re even racing at Hanging Rock. They ran out of water last year and had to transfer the races to another course at Kyneton.”

“Why exactly are we meeting my sisters up here?” I asked.

“They live up this way.” It seemed like a good reason.

“How many meetings do they have a year?” I asked him.

“At Hanging Rock?”

I nodded

“They race only two days. New Year’s Day and Australia Day. It’s country racing. Quite small. It’s not like Flemington.” Flemington was where the Melbourne Cup was held each November.

Hanging Rock racetrack was indeed no Flemington nor Royal Ascot either. But it was lively and bustling with people on their Australia Day out. Most of the buildings were temporary hospitality tents, and, like Bangor-on-Dee, there was no grandstand other than a natural bank from which to watch the racing.

The racetrack was within the Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve and was dominated, as its name might suggest, by the hanging and other rocks of a five-hundred-foot-high volcanic outcrop behind the enclosures. Unlike Leicester racetrack, this one did have trees in the middle. Lots of them. Eucalyptus gum trees that would at times obscure the horses on the far side from the crowd.

And from the stewards, I thought.

Overall, it was a delightful setting, with great elm trees providing shade for the punters as they gathered around the bookmakers like the proverbial bees around the honeypot. Gambling was gambling, the same on both sides of the globe.

Lachie had obviously spun some yarn to the Hanging Rock Racing Club because we were met at the entrance by a small delegation.

“Welcome to Hanging Rock races,” said Anthony, the club chairman, shaking my hand. “Always a pleasure to welcome a fellow racing enthusiast from England.”

“Thank you,” I said, shaking his hand back and feeling like a bit of a fraud.

And they had laid on lunch for the three of us in one of the tents.

“What on earth did you tell them?” I said to Lachie in a quiet moment.

“I told them that you ran one of the biggest bookmaking firms in the UK and were looking to possibly expand over here.” He smiled broadly. “It got us a free lunch, didn’t it?”

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