UnBooks:Dick Francis: Also-ran
Praise For Also-Ran
“Sorry pal, jockeys are just nowhere near as hot as spies”
“This guy's written and published three books while dead. You think I'm going to diss one of them?”
“Just reuse what I said about the last one, it's not like it'll be any different”
I didn't realise what an incredible human being I was until the day Rob Ferguson was shot. Of course, I had known that I was supremely talented (not everyone becomes champion jockey after all) and devilishly handsome too. But until the days that followed my friend's death even I could not have guessed at the depths of my own courage and ingenuity.
I arrived at the races that morning in my Jaguar XKR. I could have had a ferrari, but I don't like to show off. It seemed a morning like any other; clear blue skies and thousands of people waiting to catch a glimpse of their idol. Me, that is. Imagine the uproar if it had been me who'd got himself killed. Lucky I'm too smart for that.
In the first race of the day I was riding a green young horse which nobody expected to do well. To my surprise, it showed some spirit and legs; keeping up with the pack with little bother. Probably because of the strength of my personality - this really helps me form bonds with the horses I ride. Works for women too. Due to my expert handling I was able to gain ground on every jump, keeping the horse in third or fourth until the last fence when I forced the last efforts out of my steed to win by half a length. The feeling of elation was as great as ever, sweeter still with the knowledge that it was my own skill and character that won that race, despite a weaker horse. The rider I had beaten congratulated me with tight lips, hiding his own disappointment. I fancied I could see a hint of jealousy cross his eyes. No wonder someone tries to kill me later on - I'm just that fucking good.
Talking of fucking... I thought, eyeing up the owner, Mr Jones's, beautiful young daughter. After receiving the somewhat tiresome congratulations of my employers, I led the girl aside. It took about thirty seconds for us to realise an incredible bond between us and an hour later we were making love in a horse box. I was awesome. She was quite good too. She'll probably marry me later. Can't really blame her; I know I would.
As we strolled back towards the course, flushed and glowing, I heard raised voices coming from another horse-box and sent the girl on ahead. Creeping up towards the box's entrance I heard Rob Ferguson's voice shouting:
- "I don't care how much you pay me. This is my career! I won't do it."
The reply came back in a deep gravelly voice. The voice, I realised, that owned the horse I had been riding. And the girl.
- "You have no choice in the matter. Do you think anyone else will employ you after your recent results?"
Rob's voice was higher this time, almost hysterical:
- "You'll pay for this! I'll have your licence! I'll have you in gaol!"
This last came as Rob's footsteps could be heard running for the door. I dived for the only cover available; under the box itself, and waited until both occupants of the box had joined the crowds beside the course, Rob moving almost at a run with Mr Jones following more sedately.
I removed myself from under the horse-box, pondering the recent conversation. It didn't take me long to realise that there must be something wrong between Rob and Mr Jones. Perhaps the latter had realised that he was wasting his time giving Rob his best horses while I rode novices. Anyway, I decided, I ought to speak to the man about it. He'd have to realise that it was nothing personal; owners would always do what was clearly best for their horses.
It was shortly after this that Rob was shot. One minute I was standing talking to him, the next he was dead. In the confusion which followed it was impossible to tell which of the many people in the surrounding crowd had fired the gun. I spent the next half hour answering questions for the police, which nearly made me miss my next race; riding the favourite in the fourth of the day. I won, of course. Even after this I could not relax, as I had agreed to take Rob's ride in the last race of the day. I edged to another narrow victory, to the delight of the horse's owners. Lucky for them, I suppose, though I'm sure Rob would have tried his best.
As I made my way to my back to my car I was planning my later celebrations. Three winners don't happen every day, even for me. Of course the passing of a friend took the sheen off it, but I saw little point in dwelling on this. It was as these thoughts were running through my head that something very hard tried to follow and instead knocked me out cold.
The next thing I was aware of was being in the back of a moving car
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was tortured for a bit and told all the details of the villains plans. He then tied me up quite insecurely and inexplicably left me alone long enough to escape. After showing incredible bravery in breaking free, I blackmailed him into leaving the country since policemen are against my beliefs. Then I made love to my girlfriend again, since that's always a nice way to end a book.