Fleetwood Downs was what all horse tracks aspired to if they wanted to be stuck in the seventies with a slicked back bad comb over. That was also the era of men that were still attracted to the place. It was a good place for the horses though. The track was one mile long of the most perfect dirt for racing this side of Kentucky, or from the other side for that matter. As such it was a great place to break in, be it a trainer, owner, jockey or thoroughbred. It was also a place where backdoor deals were all too possible by people looking for that extra edge to get them noticed and into the big leagues.
Dan and Gray checked through what can only be loosely called security and headed down past the track to the stables. The way wasn’t marked, but anybody with a nose and a constitution could find the place. The horses snorted their hellos to the two as they entered one of the buildings. Gary looked into a couple of the stalls admiringly.
“People say lions are the kings of the beasts, but give me a horse any day,” Gary said.
Dan was too busy avoided stepping in manure to enjoy the show of horseflesh. “Well, people don’t need to worry about getting eaten by horses. That might be one reason to vote for the lions.”
“It isn’t about ferocity, though horses have that in spades,” Gary replied. “It’s about the poise and power that a horse has. They even smell of untapped energy that with a twitch of the reigns turns into pure speed.”
Dan grimaced looking for something that wasn’t horse, or speaking about horses. “Wax poetic when I can’t smell all that untapped energy. Remember, we’re here for Luigi.”
Gary sighed. “You just don’t understand.”
“No, I understand. You’ve got a jones for horses. Been there, heard about that. Especially last time Luigi tried his game.” Dan kept moving through the minefield looking for daylight.
“That’s right,” Gary said. “I guess Luigi isn’t all bad after all. At least he appreciates one of the finer points of life.”
Dan didn’t even turn around. “He appreciates one thing, cash. That’s all this stuff means to him.”
Gary gave one horse a gentle pet on its nose. “Cynic.”
Finally Dan saw a guy he recognized from the last time he was here, but after a quick mental check, couldn’t remember his name. “Hey, you there. Have you seen Luigi?”
The guy smiled showing his missing front two teeth. “Who’s Luigi?”
Dan lost it and rushed the guy, grabbing him by his shirt and slamming him against the wall. “Don’t give me that horse crap! Where’s Luigi?”
The guy lost his smile. “I don’t know who you talking about.”
“What’s wrong with you?” asked Gary as he forced Dan to release the guy. “Sorry Sid. My partner is having a mid life crisis and has decided to take it out on everyone he meets.”
Sid smiled his toothless grin again. “That’s okay Mr. Sherman. People pick on me a lot.”
Gary looked at Dan. “Well that doesn’t mean Dan shouldn’t apologize. Right Dan?”
Dan sheepishly bowed his head. “Sorry about that.”
“That’s okay,” Sid said. “I have it happen all the time.”
“Anyone out in the paddock?” asked Gary still giving Dan the evil eye.
Sid thought for a second. “Handyman’s Special is out there. He’s got a race tomorrow.”
“Let’s go check him out,” Gary said.
Dan looked around. “You go ahead. I’m going to poke around the grandstand.”
“Can you behave yourself?” asked Gary.
Dan was still annoyed, but knew he had to swallow his pride on this one. “Yeah, I think I can keep myself out of trouble.”
Gary stared at him a second, trying to figure out if Dan was pulling his leg, but eventually he gave in. “Alright. I’ll meet you up there after talking to a couple of people down here.”
Dan didn’t reply as he walked back through the minefield. He just knew he needed space to think about things. Why was he getting so emotional? This was so unlike him. Yeah, he was spontaneous, but this was way beyond that. Was this a symptom of rabies? Could you get rabies from another human bite? Would that explain the dreams?
By the time Dan had asked all those questions and answered none he was at the grandstand. The place was mostly deserted since the first post wouldn’t be for another two hours. After walking the length and breath of the place he began looking for Gary. He found Gary at the betting windows.
“Trying to strike it rich?” asked Dan.
Gary placed a twenty into the window. “Nope, but Handyman’s Special sort of spoke to me.”
Dan couldn’t resist. “You found the racing equivalent of Mr. Ed?”
“Funny guy,” Gary said. “You won’t understand, so I won’t even bother trying to explain. But I do have some good news.”
“Oh yeah, what is that?” asked Dan
Gary pocketed his ticket and moved from the window. “I was talking to Handyman’s Special’s trainer and he was approached a couple of days ago by our man. Wanted to see if the trainer was interested in setting up a deal where they throw the next two races. He was promised that he would then get his turn to be in the spotlight in the next three races.”
Dan smiled. “That sounds like our Luigi. Did the guy refuse?”
“Would I bet on a horse that the trainer agreed to throw the race?” Gary asked.
Dan thought for a minute before responding. Then his eyes lit up. “You sly dog.” Dan punched Gary in the arm.
Gary moved out of reach. “What now?”
“You just bet a race where other horses might have taken Luigi’s offer, cutting down on the competition,” said Dan. “Where morally do you stand on that?”
“I’ll be fine if we grab Luigi and bust this thing open in the next few hours,” Gary said. “Besides, I already sent a car to pick up our friend. The trainer is willing to testify, so that should put the kibosh on any fix.”
“You know you’re no fun ever since you started going to church.” said Dan.
“That’s not what Agatha said,” Gary replied.
Dan looked surprised. “Agatha said you were fun?”
“Yeah, she did. Is that so wrong?” Gary asked.
“No, but we need to work on getting you two to the next level.” Dan started walking to the car.
“You know that won’t happen anytime soon,” Gary said as he fell in beside his partner.
“Don’t squash my hopes man. At least you’re in the game,” Dan said. A smile spread on his face. “We have hope.”
“You of all people should realize she is a till death do I part type,” Gary responded.
“One step at a time,” Dan said. “Maybe a Mark Twain could be arranged.”
“And who gets to pull the trigger that you greatly exaggerate?” asked Gary.
Dan paused for a second to think then continued walking. “No one yet. Just keep up the good guy pose and let me work on the rest.”
“It’s not a pose,” Gary said.
Dan patted Gary on the back. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell her.”
Gary gave Dan the number one salute.
Dan smiled. “See what I mean.