At 08:15, Horatio Merryweather stepped out of his British Racing Green front door dressed in one of his five grey suits and clutching his battered brown briefcase. After checking that the door was secured he left his ordered front garden by the jet-black front gate and turned left. Head held high and at Light Infantry pace he strode out for his High Street Office.
At 08:42, Horatio Merryweather arrived at his office. Taking a clean white handkerchief from his left hand trouser pocket, he wiped the brass plate, inspected it from various angles and then let himself in to follow and enforce the well-documented office routine until 17:45.
Arriving home at 18:36 after his regulation Irish whiskey and soda in the Prince of Wales Public House, Horatio Merryweather placed the Cottage Pie prepared the previous evening into the oven and changed into his gardening attire.
Horatio Merryweather sat on the back step and secured the pair of army boots set aside for the purpose of gardening. With a slow yet certain stride, he moved towards the shed at the bottom of the garden, surveying his estate, which was almost all turned over to the production of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Two thirds of the way to the shed Horatio Merryweather halted. In a space recently vacated by carrots, a hole had caught his eye. The unexpected disorder caused him confusion. After assessing the situation, a plank was fetched and laid out across the dark brown earth between the offending hole and the row of cabbages. Horatio walked over the plank, pulled up the knees of his trousers and squatted down to inspect the hole.
The hole was perfectly round and would easily have accommodated his hand, but the thought of some yellow-fanged rodent lurking in the darkness caused Horatio to draw back. Horatio strategically retired to the shed and returned with a plant cane. Slowly, he inserted the cane to reconnoitre the depth and size of the dark void.
"Oi! What are you playing at?"
An irate voice echoed from the hole causing Horatio to fall backwards and crush a cabbage. The plant cane disappeared completely into the hole. Horatio sat amongst the remains of the cabbage, too stunned to notice the dampness as the juices of the crushed vegetable seeped into his trousers. As he considered his next move, the plant cane made its reappearance. An unseen force caused it to describe a perfect arc before coming to rest on the path.
Horatio Merryweather roused himself and moved forward. He positioned himself above the hole and peered in.
"Do you mind?" The voice rang out with an Irish brogue. "I'm trying to read in here and you're blocking my light."
Horatio started to move back and then remembered that he was the aggrieved party.
"Look, I don't know who you are, but you have made a hole in my garden." Horatio did his best to sound indignant.
"Your garden?" the voice took on a mocking tone. "And just what makes you think this is your garden?"
"I have the deeds that I own the land and everything on it. And underneath it." Horatio added the last part, not particularly sure if the deeds covered underground dwellings of disembodied voices.
"Land cannot be owned by the individual. It's a resource of the proletariat. You can't claim ownership of my home because of some piece of paper! I know my rights. Now piss off and let me read my paper!"
The voice rustled a paper in defiance. Horatio considered the statement. Nothing in his experience had equipped him for dealing with Marxist disembodied voices taking up residency under his vegetables.
"Look here. This is not some people's collective in a tin pot communist state. This is England! In England you cannot just dig a hole and live in someone's garden. If you don't leave immediately, I shall force you out!"
It wasn't much of a political repost, but it was all Horatio could manage.
"England heh? Still, I would like to see you get me out. You got your own Army out there!"
The voice dissolved into mocking laughter.
Horatio retired to the shed where he fetched a hosepipe, which he connected to the tap and fed out until he reached the hole.
Horatio bent over the hole and bellowed, "This is your last chance. If you don't leave, I will flush you out!"
"I ain't moving unless you get the appropriate court order and eviction notice. Now just bog off and leave me in peace."
The voice remained defiant.
Horatio Merryweather trained the hose onto the hole and pulled the trigger. A jet of water disappeared into the blackness.
"All right! All right!" the voice spluttered from the blackness. "Let's make a deal here."
Horatio cut off the water. The words escaped Horatio's lips before he could stop them.
"Deal? What sort of deal?"
At 13:07 the next day, Horatio Merryweather left his office. No one from the office could ever remember him departing from his routine in such a manner. Julie, the trainee came rushing into the office several minutes later. Out of breath and wide eyed, she told everyone that she had seen Horatio Merryweather go into the bookmakers. For the remaining twelve minutes that Horatio was away, the office buzzed with conversation.
Horatio's neighbours also buzzed with conversation. His regular habit of engaging in conversation with a particular point in his garden caused them to speculate over his sanity.
On a particularly damp Wednesday, at 19:02, Horatio Merryweather approached the hole.
"Good Evening," said Horatio, addressing the hole formally as he could find no reason to let his standard in manners to drop.
"Good?" the voice in the hole responded. "This weather makes this place damp and cold. I could do with something to warm me up."
"I have a small camping stove that might fit down the hole," Horatio ventured.
"Camping stove? What would I be wanting with a camping stove?" The voice sounded irritated. "What I need is a nice drop of Whiskey. Irish mind, and none of the cheap stuff either!"
Horatio Merryweather considered the request for a few moments and then marched back to the house. He returned a few minutes later with a bottle of Irish whiskey, short by three of his Sunday evening drams, and a ball of string. The bottle was lowered into the hole.
"That, my dear Horatio, is a grand drop of the golden elixir." The mood of the voice appeared much improved. "For that, I think I'll give you a long shot. Viking Lingerie in the 2:40 at Ascot. Should come in at around 20 to 1."
If Horatio Merryweather was aware of the stares and whispers that accompanied him around the town he made no sign. Not even Miss Cynthia Cooper, his trusted office manager, dared broach the subject of his sudden alterations to routine, his purchases of large amount of hard liquor and the sounds of drunken singing coming from his garden in the evenings.
Horatio now viewed the voice in the hole as a blessing. Inwardly, Horatio had grown to like the thrill of watching his chosen horse romp home. After all it could not be considered gambling if you knew the horse was going to win. Apart from the money, being a winner had other benefits. For all his protestations, he found the way that fellow punters flattered him about his talent with horseflesh particularly warming, although the bookmaker was becoming increasingly less welcoming. At one of his rendezvous at the hole, Horatio felt he should voice his appreciation.
"You know, this horse racing is quite exciting. I would never have thought that I could enjoy watching TV as much as I do when I watch the horses."
"Ah, that's nothing." The voice was already slurred from the latest bottle lowered down the hole. "The thrill of being at the meeting itself, now that is a feeling that can't be beat. Have you ever been to Newmarket?"
"Yes, I have an aunt that I visit on her birthday," answered Horatio in a bewildered tone.
"Not the town! The Racecourse!" the voice spoke the last two words with hushed reverence. "Now if you could find it in your heart to take me, then I'll be truly grateful."
Horatio squatted over the hole and thought about the logistics. After several minutes he got up and paced up and down the plank. At last he returned to the hole.
"If you wish to go to Newmarket, then I'll take you. I'll get you a room in the best hotel we can find."
"Put me in my own Hotel Room?" Laughter echoed around the hole. "It's time that we spoke, face to face as it were."
Horatio's jaw dropped and his eyes widened as out of the hole climbed a man barely six inches tall and dressed head to toe in green.
"The name is Shamus, Shamus O'Malley."
The green clad figure doffed his hat to Horatio. For some moments, Horace's mouth operated without any sound. Shamus watched with hands on hips. The plentiful ginger whiskers on his face twitched as he tried not to laugh at his unfortunate host.
"You're a Leprechaun!" Horace's brain had engaged with his mouth.
"That I am, Sir!" Shamus made an exaggerated bow. "Shamus O'Malley, late of County Wicklow and now an exile enjoying your wonderful hospitality."
Horatio paused to rally his thoughts.
"I know what you are thinking, Sir." Shamus shot Horatio a disarming grin. "You are thinking about me pot o' gold. Well, I'm afraid that I had to depart the Emerald Isle rather quickly and gold is not something that helps when you're traveling light."
"Are you wanted by the Authorities?"
The idea that he was harbouring a fugitive alarmed Horatio.
"No, Sir. Not the Authorities." Shamus became more circumspect. "Let's just say that I felt that my skills with matters of the turf were not being appreciated. It was time to move on and, ahhh, well, some people didn't like the idea."
"Will they be searching for you?" Horatio asked.
"It's a certainty, Sir," Shamus replied with total sincerity. "If they find me, then I will have to go back with them too, Sir. But, right now they are not looking in any of the right places."
"It looks like this exercise will require more complicated arrangements than I thought!" Horatio straightened into a ramrod pose. "I shall start on the organisation straight away."
Organisation always was one of Horatio's strong points. Within days, he managed to make the travel plans and take advantage of a late cancellation at the Heath Court Hotel in Newmarket. Attention turned to how to keep Shamus both undetected, comfortable and supplied with whiskey.
The solution was the purchase of a very large pair of binoculars, which came with a very large carrying case. Horatio stored the binoculars and set to work converting the case. A miniature, but well padded seat was installed along with three small viewing holes. A fish-eyed lens from a door peephole was added to ensure that Shamus had the best possible view of events. The final touch was to add a hip flask.
The unfortunate Miss Cooper was too stunned by the news of Horatio's plans to protest. The rest of the office fizzed with whispered speculation about their employer's mental and financial stability. Horatio was unconcerned; he didn't even attempt to stem the rebellion with his normal parade ground stare.
That evening, Horatio installed a communications centre in the binocular case. Two hearing aids, with their wires carefully concealed in the thick leather strap, would enable them to talk to each other without arousing suspicion.
Horatio, with Shamus concealed in the binocular case, set off the next afternoon. The travel plans were executed effectively and they arrived at the hotel around dusk.
The pair went straight to their room. Horatio withdrew a bottle of whiskey from his bag and spread a racing paper across the table. Shamus sat cross-legged on the table while Horatio sat upright in a chair. Both studied the paper in silence for some time.
Horatio finally posed the question that had niggled at him. "If these people find you, why will you have to go back to Ireland?"
"It's not so much as having to as having to, you understand." Shamus had a far away look in his eyes. "If they find me, then I'll go back. I've been away for too long. England is nice enough, but it isn't Ireland. If they ask me nicely, I'll go back. If they don't, well that's another matter."
Shamus added the last part with defiance, signaling his resolve by slamming his tiny fist into the palm of his other hand.
"Now don't take it hard." The look of disappointment that swept across Horatio's features caused Shamus to soften his tone. "Worrying about something that might not happen does no good at all. Besides, our lives have touched and we have given each other gifts of memories."
Horatio stayed silent. It just wouldn't do to let Shamus know they now shared the closest thing to friendship that he had known since he left the army five years before.
A knock on the door caused them both to start. Shamus was off the table, across the room and safely hidden in the wardrobe in an instant. Horatio managed to regain his composure and opened the door.
The young room service waitress smiled at Horatio as she wheeled in the trolley. It took her far longer to present the meal on the table than really necessary and the entire time she kept giving him coy sideways glances accompanied with strange smiles. When she did eventually leave, Horatio was sure that at least one button on her blouse had come undone. Her thanks seemed out of proportion to the small tip; almost to the point of sarcasm and the way she briefly stroked his hand most disconcerting.
In his wardrobe hideout, Shamus chuckled quietly to himself.
Horatio mustered the conversation during the meal so that it focused purely on the following days racing. The leprechaun contented himself with observing his companion and giving knowing smiles, which his companion steadfastly ignored.
The pair arrived early at the racecourse. Shamus guided Horatio around the course, and soon the pair of them were caught up in the excitement of the meeting. As the afternoon wore on, Shamus persuaded Horatio to place larger and larger bets.
Of the six races, Shamus predicted the winner of five. In the last race, his selection thundered past the post in the safety of the pursuing pack. For the first time, Horatio experienced the shock of losing.
"These racing folk are crafty beggars, you understand," Shamus had confided from the safety of the binoculars case. "Not winning means they'll get a better handicap in their next race and stand to win more money."
It didn't seem to Horatio that this was exactly fair, but given that he had several thousand pounds winnings from the day, he was prepared to accept it.
That evening, back in the hotel room, Shamus was at his excitable best. Each race was dissected and analysed in great detail. The strengths and weaknesses of each horse was listed with great thoroughness. Horatio listened and he hoped he learned.
The next day they went to the racecourse via the bank and banked the majority of the winnings. Horatio worried that the luck would desert them. He needn't have. With the assistance of his friend, he managed to go through the card. The winning streak brought with it a number of followers who were only too willing to buy him a drink in return for his whispered selection for the next race.
Being a considerate man, Horatio made sure that the hip flask in the binoculars case was regularly topped up. It was during one of the clandestine top-ups that Horatio fist noticed the girl. She looked away when Horatio caught her eye.
Her flame red hair glinted in the late autumn sunshine as she turned her head. Two long, slender legs poked out from a figure-accentuating skirt that flowed seductively as she walked away. Horatio spotted her a number of other times. It was difficult not to spot such a beautiful girl, even in the crowd. For a moment he suspected that she was watching him, but discounted the idea as ridiculous.
When they arrived back at the hotel Shamus appeared rather distracted. He took no interest when Horatio calculated their total winnings for the day. There was no lengthy and exultant explanation of how he selected the winning horses. The little man didn't even bother to pass comment on the way the room service waitress behaved.
From his hiding place, he must have seen her gently wet her lips with the tip of her tongue whenever Horatio looked in her direction. If he noticed the way she accidentally brushed against Horatio several times, he didn't give his expected chuckle.
"Shamus? Are you alright?" Horatio asked, as he watched Shamus half-heartedly poke a piece of potato round the plate with his miniature spoon.
"Sure. I'm fine, just fine. Thank you for asking." Shamus gave a huge sigh. "It's probably just the excitement and the whiskey making me tired."
Horatio didn't feel comfortable with the answer, but let the matter rest.
Shamus was subdued the next morning. There was no objection raised to going to the racecourse via the bank. There was not much discourse through the earpiece about the winners he was going to select. Horatio was worried that Shamus had become sick. As he was searching for a quiet corner to check on his friend, Shamus suddenly seemed to perk up.
"You know something my dear Horatio?" The voice had regained it's sparkle. "Today is going to be the most memorable day. My friend, this is a day that you will remember for the rest of your life. They will pay today!"
"Shamus! You're feeling better?" a relieved Horatio whispered into the hidden microphone.
"Never better! Never better!" Shamus replied. "Now let's start with the bookies. Let's put a thousand on the filly, Hidden Lusts in the first. To win!"
As Horatio walked away from the bookmaker, the beautiful flame haired girl suddenly appeared. Horatio lifted his hat in polite greeting. The girl smiled and held out a manicured hand, which he shook.
"Hi, I'm Jeannine O'Hara."
"Horatio Merryweather. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
Horatio was puzzled by the way she suddenly reminded him of the waitress at the hotel. There was a chuckle in his earpiece.
Horatio shared the tip for the race with her. After she placed her bet, they walked back towards the stand with Jeannine hanging onto his arm with both hands.
Hidden Lusts came through with a late burst to win by a length. In the excitement, Jeannine hugged Horatio and kissed him on the lips. Horatio was shocked, but found the experience quite pleasurable. Jeannine blushed and looked confused.
The two walked arm in arm to the bookmaker who handed Horatio a thick wad of notes. Jeannine looked on open-mouthed before collecting her own winnings.
"That was a pleasure," Shamus cackled in Horatio's earpiece. "In the next race I think that Rising Warmth is worth a couple of thousand."
Horatio felt uncomfortable at such a large bet, but placed it anyway. Jeannine also staked her winnings. They retired to the bar and enjoyed some champagne while waiting for the horses to go to the start for the next race.
Rising Warmth went off at a gallop. For the entire race, Jeannine hugged Horatio while hopping from foot to foot. Horatio found himself watching her cute freckled face as it lit up in excitement, and enjoying the warmth of her body as it seeped through his coat. When the horse won, Jeannine kissed him again, longer and slower. It was a kiss which Horatio allowed himself to return and enjoy.
After collecting their winnings, Shamus directed the couple to the parade ring so that he could take a look at the horseflesh and make his next selection. After some deliberation he chose Magic Caress and instructed Horatio to bet three thousand pounds.
Horatio purchased another bottle of champagne and took Jeannine down to the rails to watch the race.
As the horses thundered past, Jeannine and Horatio turned towards the winning post. From such close quarters, it was difficult to tell which horse had finished first.
Jeannine turned to face Horatio. As she did so, Horatio's hand accidentally brushed gently against her breast. Jeannine gasped in unexpected pleasure. Horatio blushed in confusion.
Magic Caress was announced as the winner. Another less than happy bookmaker handed over bundles of cash to Horatio and Jeannine.
The champagne required Jeannine to visit the facilities. Horatio provided the escort and waited a discreet distance from the entrance.
"Ah! Horatio, me lad," Shamus exclaimed into his ear. "The favourite will romp the next race, but the odds will be poor. Best place five thousand on Extended Liaison."
"Five Thousand?" Horatio urgently questioned the microphone.
"Five Thousand. You've more than enough in your pockets," Shamus chided. "And when you pick up your winnings, be sure that you ask the delightful Jeannine back to the Hotel for dinner!"
Horatio did exactly as he was instructed. Jeannine accepted his invitation with a smile and kiss. If Horatio felt it was somewhat improper for him to be taking a lady almost young enough to be his daughter to dinner, he didn't let it dampen his anticipation.
Shamus's tip for the next race romped home. Jeannine and Horatio hugged and cheered as it held off a late challenge and caused another bookmaker to put on hold his plans for a short holiday.
For the last race, Shamus picked out Physical Connection, but cautioned Horatio not to place more than a thousand. The horse thundered past the post as part of a group and a photograph was called for. Jeannine and Horatio held hands and nervously waited for the result. When Physical Connection was officially announced the winner, both hugged and jumped up and down like excited schoolchildren.
Back at the hotel, Horatio purchased a drink for Jeannine and then took Shamus to their room. While Horatio washed and shaved, Shamus observed him from the soap dish.
"You know something, Horatio?" There was a sly tone to Shamus's voice. "I will be turning in early and will be sleeping through anything tonight. Don't you be worried about bringing the lady to the room for a nightcap, you hear?"
Horatio mumbled a reply about the idea of Jeannine coming to his room as being ridiculous, but inside him, something quivered in hope.
The meal with Jeannine was a highly enjoyable occasion. The food and wine were superb and the conversation excellent. Horatio proved himself a distinguished host while Jeannine was an attentive and appreciative guest.
"Would you care to come to my room for a night cap?"
The words came smoothly and unbidden from Horatio's lips. Jeannine nodded and almost dragged him towards the lifts.
Horatio Merryweather was not unversed in the art of love. His technique may have been a little rusty, but Jeannine seemed to appreciate it. In fact her enthusiasm and obvious pleasure spurred on Horatio's stamina to a point that surprised even him. Eventually, in the early hours of the following morning, they fell asleep, sated, naked and in each other's arms.
When Horatio awoke the following morning, he found a note upon the pillow. Jeannine had expressed her thanks and love, but said she had to catch a plane to Ireland. The binocular case and Shamus had also gone.
Horatio was heartbroken. He packed his case with a heavy heart and his head filled with fond memories of his diminutive friend. The shock of finding his money still in the pockets of his coat did little to lift his spirits as he headed home.
On the train, he stared out of the window. As he spotted a field of horses, a tear came to his eye and he reached for his handkerchief. As he lifted it, another note fell onto the table. As he read it, Shamus's voice seemed to echo around the carriage.
"My dearest Horatio,
"As I said to you, if they asked nicely, I would have to go. Jeannine asked nicely and she treated you well. Remember the day fondly. Do not worry yourself about me, for I will be fine.
"In all of our time together, you always treated me well and with respect. For that I will be eternally honoured. Not once did you ask for anything above what we agreed, for you, my friend, are a honourable man.
"Not once did you raise the subject of your three wishes. Now most folks are asking for their wishes as soon as they clap eyes on you, but not you. It doesn't seem right that you miss out somehow.
"Your friend, Shamus O'Malley."
Horatio thought he heard a chuckle fill the air.
At 08:15, Horatio Merryweather steps out of his British Racing Green front door dressed in one of his five grey suits and clutching his battered brown briefcase. He kisses the former Miss Cynthia Cooper and his two children farewell, leaves his ordered front garden by the jet-black front gate and turns left. Head held high, and at Light Infantry pace, he strides out for his High Street Office.
At 18:06 Horatio Merryweather arrives home to the smell of Cottage Pie in the oven. Over dinner, he discusses events of the day with Alexandra and Montgomery. After dinner, Horatio and Cynthia sit down with a small glass of Irish whiskey and make a toast to Shamus O'Malley.