"What. Was. That." The magenta-faced man in the private box stabbed a forefinger down at the track where the last of the field were straggling over the finish line, punctuated by the explosive emissions of the winning horse who was still thundering -- well, tooting -- his victory gallop around the clubhouse turn.
"Pegasus pills, Henry!" said his tuxedoed companion and co-owner of the colt in question. "Told you he'd go off like a rocket, didn't I?" The other occupants of the box, two young ladies with identically-coiffed black curls and Spanish eyes, traded conspiratorial grins with him.
"Light a match behind him and he would have done! What the bloody hell are you playing at, Devlin? We had a deal!"
"And we delivered, didn't we, girls?" Devlin draped an arm around each of his winsome companions. "Everything on the list. Mickeys slipped--"
"What did you do, buy a round for the whole field? Even the laggards were staggering!"
"Little dumbbells falling out all over the turf! And as for that cock-up of a jockey--"
"Now, now, my dove," said one of the young women, leaning across Devlin to pat Henry's arm with a gloved hand, while the other girl solicitously mopped his fevered brow with a lace hankie. "Where's the harm in giving the competition a touch of the whip here and there? Does the other jockeys a nice favour, the way I see it."
"By getting us disqualified? The man was in a frenzy! Not even at the quarter pole and he was lashing himself! And you," he said, once again pointing his forefinger in a daggerly way at Devlin's starched shirtfront, "you guaranteed our horse would come in first."
"And, as I say, I delivered. Thanks for the advance, by the way. It's a tidy bit more than the Donaghues got for promising every other nag in the field a win." He patted the folded banknote-shaped bulge in his breast pocket, right underneath his green chrysanthemum boutonnière, and cast a glance over at the tote board. "I expect it'll be a while till our wind-sped pegasus is inquisitioned out of the winner's circle. The stewards will have more important things to worry about, after the racing commission finds certain candids planted by my dear Misses Donaghue here."
"Very candid," said the one sister, giggling. "Oh, indeed they were," her twin confirmed with a wink and a nudge.
"If you think you can get away with this--"
"Certainly we can. Money's already in the bag, so to speak." Devlin looked sidelong at the ladies and gave a tilt of his head toward the exit. "But on the odd chance you want to take it up with the authorities, well, no doubt they'd be quite eager to tease out your little part in the story."
"Oh, don't look so gloom and doom, you poor squab," said one of the Donaghues, pulling with some difficulty out of her tiny handbag a thick sheaf of papers, accordion-folded, and tossing it to Henry. "Here's a little parting gift. All our shares of the colt signed over to you, now, isn't that nice?"
"Remember to save some room for him in the overhead back to Tuscany!" the other Donaghue called as the happy trifecta took their French leave up the stair and away.