Terrence Mulligan took a deep breath. The humid sea air was tainted with the smell of rotting vegetables.

"What a dump," he thought. "And they call this a tropical paradise!"

He had wandered the streets of Suva for most of the morning. At first he savoured the sights and smells of this, the cruise-liner's first port-of-call. Mulligan had never been out of the country before, but with the proceeds of his last service station stick-up had thought it was time to pamper himself. A South Pacific cruise seemed ideal... but it wasn't working out too well.

First night at sea had seen him green and spending most of the evening leaning over the railing. The first day red and sore from the relentless sun. The second night, rejected by all 14 young ladies he approached in the disco bar. The third day, hung over. And then things got worse. A touch of gastric trouble. A misunderstanding with a snobbish matron over a deck chair. The volley ball that hit him in the groin. Life on the ocean waves was not all that the travel brochures had promised. And to Mulligan's humiliation, he'd almost been caught when lifting those travellers cheques from that old guy's wallet near the pool.

When the dazzling white liner nudged the wharf at Suva early on the fifth morning, Terrence Mulligan was already waiting at the gangway gate, anxious to leave the ship and explore his first foreign port.

He'd walked from the docks, past the already bustling markets; stared incredulously at the windowless buses, heaving their loads of Fijiians, Indians, boxes and poultry; wandered aimlessly along the shopping district streets, avoiding the Indian touts outside the duty-free shops, studiously avoiding eye contact with the Fijiian youths crouched in the shady shadows and had had a warm beer in a warm colonial hotel. It was not exactly palm trees, sandy beaches, blue lagoons and exotic grass-skirted maidens.

Mulligan took another fetid breath of the tropical air and trudged along a shadowy, narrow street back towards the liner. He was aware of the shops lining each side of the street and of eyes that followed his progress from the shadows.

Ahead of him ambled an old Fijiian lady, waddling doggedly towards the brighter cross street at the end of the shadows.

Suddenly she stumbled, dropping one of her string bags of market produce. As she stooped to gather her possessions, Mulligan halted. He wasn't going to get involved. He wasn't going to help her. He studied instead, one of the window displays in one of the shops. It was another duty free shop, chock-full of electronic equipment from Korea and Japan. He looked back down the street and noticed that they were all duty free shops.

"Hmmm" he thought. "Maybe I should pick up some cheap gear while I'm here. I could flog it for twice the price when I get home."

He smiled at the thought, and as the old lady moved off, he trudged on. Reaching the spot where the woman had stumbled, he felt his foot kick something on the path. He looked down, saw the woman's forgotten money purse, looked around, and stooping down as if to re-tie his shoelaces, palmed the purse.

As he straightened, he found he was looking directly into the eyes of a wizened old Indian standing in the doorway of a shop. The Indian smiled, his white teeth bright amongst the dark skin and the shadows.

Flustered, Mulligan managed to say, "Oh, hello."

"Hello Sir, it is very good to be meeting you this day."

"Ah... yeah." Mulligan, somewhat recovering his composure, confidently walked towards the Indian. "Hey, lovely town you have here."

"Yes, we are being to like it. Is there something I can show you from my marvellous range of goods, sir."

"Well, um, yeah, sure," Mulligan said with his friendliest smile, thinking that he better humour the guy. After all, he might have seen him palm the old girl's purse.

Entering the dim shop, Mulligan's eyes were immediately drawn to a colourfully lit display. Above the grey-black cabinet of the largest television set Mulligan had ever seen, was the flashing neon tube sign proclaiming; "The television of the future. See it now!"

"Wow!" said Mulligan. "That's sure some TV set."

"Ah, yes, sir. It being very expensive though, sir," said the Indian shopkeeper. "I have for you some very good but very much less expensive television sets over here sir." And the merchant endeavoured to manoeuvre Mulligan towards a stacked display of smaller screens.

"No, hang on... hang on," said Mulligan "I'm interested in this one. The television of the future. Yeah, I like that."

"Oh no, sir. I do not be thinking it is for you."

"Listen, mate. I'm wise to your tricks, you want to flog me one of the cheaper ones that you probably make double the mark-up on anyway. No, I'll take this one!" Mulligan pulled a wad of notes from his pocket and slapped them on the counter. "And I'll take it now!"

The Indian shopkeeper sighed, "Very well, sir. But I do not be thinking the television of the future is for you."

Mulligan hailed two Fijiian youths from the street and, after an exchange of forged travellers cheques, they helped him carry the TV set, now in its carton, from the shop.

Mulligan, still chuckling over his ability to outsmart the Indian trader, led the procession through the littered streets towards the harbour and the cruise liner.

Finally, after negotiating the gangway, overcoming the purser's objections and squeezing through the cabin door, the TV set was deposited into Mulligan's cabin. By breathing in, he could manage to slide between the door opening and the bed; and, by clambering over the carton, he could reach the wash basin. But, to Mulligan, the inconvenience was of no consequence - he had the TV set. He couldn't explain, even to himself, the attraction the set held for him, he wanted it, he had it, and he felt he couldn't let it out of his sight. Just having it made him feel warm all over (or was that the lack of air-conditioning in the cramped cabin?); he couldn't wait to get the TV home so he could plug it in and turn it on.


*        *        *



However the cruise didn't improve. The tail of a cyclone lashed the seas into a maelstrom, the waves slapping the liner like a nanny with a naughty child. Mulligan was sick. Mulligan was green. Mulligan was ever so pleased to see the outline of his hometown emerge from below the misty horizon.


*        *        *



The docking complete, Terrence Mulligan ran down the gangplank to arrange the trucking of his television set to his lodgings. Throwing ten-dollar notes at a couple of waylaid taxi drivers, Mulligan harangued them back up the gangway. The cabbies soon re-emerged from the bowels of the liner, huffing the outsized carton between them. The smirking customs official waved the puffing procession through the barricade and, not long after, with the large carton strapped to the roof of the cab, Mulligan rode home from his cruising holiday.


*        *        *



The inner-city terrace had long ago been converted into flats. Dingy small flats inhabited by the dingy characters of Mulligan's world. Above Mulligan's flat lived Andy, twice convicted of picking pockets and whose small dream was the booty awaiting him at the upcoming Royal Easter Show. Across the hall, Lennie worked his mail order scams, whilst lusting after Doreen who plied her trade in the rooms below. There were others who lived in the house, too, whose only crime was poverty... a pension or a poorly paid job in the warehouses adjoining the dingy suburb. And all was presided over by Mrs Collins, who collected the rents, maintained the peace with an iron hand, and occasionally swept the front steps.

It was on one of those rare step-sweeping days that the cab screeched to a halt outside the converted terrace.

"Oh, 'ello Mr Mulligan. Did you 'ave a good 'oliday, then?" Mrs Collins called from the stoop.

"Bloody awful," Mulligan growled as he began untying the cartoned television. He snarled at the cabbie, "C'mon, give us a hand, mate. Let's get this up to my room."

"Eh? What you got there then, Mr Mulligan? Some souvenirs?" crooned Mrs Collins.

"What? Oh, no, it's my new television."

"Hey, you ain't bringing that in here. You know the rules about loud noise and stuff. You'll have that thing goin' all night, won't you?" She eyed Mulligan shrewdly, "Hey, 'ang on! It ain't 'ot, is it?"

"No, Mrs Collins, it ain't hot. But, boy, did I get it at a good price." He smiled his oiliest smile, "I won't have it on loud, and maybe you might like to come up and watch it with me sometime?"

"Oh, Mr Mulligan!" Mrs Collins blushed. "You get on with yourself! Oh, go on, then, take it up... but keep it down, eh?"


*        *        *



That night with a feed of good home-bought fish and chips under his belt, Terrence Mulligan settled down in his small sitting-room for a night of television entertainment. His new TV stood proudly in the corner, and as Mulligan switched it on, the huge screen flickered, and flooded the room with its eerie blue light. Mulligan watched the news, a current-affair program, an American comedy and a movie. He lapped it all up, until wearily he turned off the set and made his way to bed.


*        *        *



The next afternoon in the welcoming and cosy bar of the Tree-fellers' Arms, Mulligan sat at the counter on his usual stool. He turned to Sharp Eddie beside him...

"Hey, Ed, did you watch that great movie last night? That one with the guy in the car, and that huge truck that was after him?"

"What? Are you crazy?" Sharp Eddie replied. "That's not on until tonight!"

"No, it was on last night. I watched it."

"Listen, it's on tonight. I'm planning to watch it. You're having me on, aren't you?"

"Honest, Ed, I watched it last night."

"Look, I know it's on tonight! And, anyway, I haven't time to argue with you. I want to get a bet on for the next race. You know, the big one today. I've got a hot tip."

"Big race? Wasn't that yesterday?" questioned Mulligan.

"No, mate, it's today."

Mulligan looked a little perplexed, but shaking his head, he said, "Well, I've been away on holidays... I guess I'm not up to date yet."

"Yeah," said Sharp Eddie. "I guess you ain't. Anyway, I've got a hot tip." He leaned closer to Mulligan and whispered, "It's Mabel's Delight. It'll romp it in."

Mulligan stared at Eddie, and then with a cautious intake of breath hesitantly said, "No, Eddie, Mabel's Delight ran third. Big Thumper won it. Started at 10/1. I saw it last night on the news."

Sharp Eddie laughed heartily, "Now I know you're having me on! You're a card, you are, Terry, a real card! Anyhow, I'm off. See you later."

Mulligan watched as Sharp Eddie left the bar. He turned back to the counter, had another beer and sat alone pondering. He was totally perplexed. Was Eddie having him on? Not being able to fathom what Sharp Eddie was going on about, and knowing what he had watched on television, he decided it was all just beyond him.

With that decision made, he thought no more about it, and cruised the bar catching up with old mates, talking about his holiday... keeping his ears open for gossip and hints of easy pickings. He even played a frame or two of pool.

A couple of hours later Mulligan trudged his way homeward. On passing the Newsagent's, the afternoon's conversation with Sharp Eddie came back to him; and on impulse he bustled his way into the shop and purchased the evening newspaper.

Outside again, standing in the middle of the footpath oblivious to the passing stream of homeward bound workers, he turned quickly to the sports pages. There it was in black and white: "Big Thumper wins Big Race. Starts at 10/1. Seascape 2nd. Mabel's Delight 3rd." He hurriedly checked the front page masthead. Yes, it was today's date. The race was today! He turned to the TV Guide, and there listed for showing tonight were the programs he had watched last night! Mulligan reeled, and swaying grabbed hold of the No Parking sign to support himself as he was buffeted by the passing pedestrians.

"What the hell is going on?" he thought. "This is screwy. Hang on... no, it couldn't be... could it?" He returned to the Newsagent's and purchased a magazine with the full week's TV guide. As he continued his walk home, his face was set determinedly, his stride purposeful.


*        *        *



Terrence Mulligan closed his front door, hung his coat on the hook in the tiny hall, went straight through to his small sitting room and turned on the TV. He sat on the edge of the tattered sofa, the TV magazine balanced on his knees. He watched the News, and as the following programs came on, he switched channels, checking the programs off in the TV guide. A few hours later, he knew. He did own the Television of the Future! Terrence Mulligan's television set was showing tomorrow night's programs tonight.

The enormity of Mulligan's discovery excited him beyond belief. Tomorrow's TV shows today! Tomorrow's race results today! Big Thumper 10/1! Mulligan danced a little jig around his sitting room, and as a variety program came on the TV he turned up the volume and sang along with the songs. He was still singing "I'm in the Money" at the top of his voice as he went to answer the incessant knocking on his front door.

"Mr Mulligan! Mr Mulligan!" Mrs Collins' voice could just be heard through the door. "Oh, Mr Mulligan you must turn down that television. Mr Mulligan.. "

Mulligan rushed back to the sitting room, switched off the TV set and returned to open the front door to a red faced
Mrs Collins.

"Oh Mrs. Collins, I'm so terribly sorry," Mulligan oozed. "I got so carried away. It won't happen again. I promise you."

A somewhat placated Mrs. Collins accepted his invitation to join him in a nightcap and no more was said of the errant volume of the television set.


*        *        *



The next few evenings saw Mulligan leave the Tree Fellers Arms earlier than usual. He hurried home to catch the evening news service on his television and to note down the next day's race winners. He was in the money. Every bet he placed, he won... to the amazement of his cronies at the pub. He occasionally shouted the bar, and delighted the barmaid with his predictions of the continuing agonies of the characters in her favourite soap opera. This was the life, he thought. No more petty service station stick-ups... no siree, not for this Terrence Mulligan.

There was, however, the sporadic pang of regret at the lost adrenalin pump he had always experienced during his illegal adventures. So, it was too great a temptation to ignore for Mulligan as that night, when seated in front of the TV with his note pad and pencil ready to take down the next day's race results, the television newsreader had said:

"In a daring raid just minutes ago, a lone bandit held up the National Museum and escaped with gems and jewellery valued at over a million dollars. Police believe the thief had inside knowledge as the jewels, destined for a major exhibition, were being transported to the museum in ultra secrecy. Officials carried the jewels in simple briefcases, arriving at the Museum by ordinary taxi shortly before 6PM. Half an hour earlier, an armoured car, under police escort, had acted as a decoy with empty crates being carried into the museum to convince onlookers that the valuable jewels were already safe. More news at it comes to hand."

Mulligan jumped to his feet "That's it!" he thought. "That could be me. I know how the jewels are coming to the museum tomorrow. I could be the one to heist them. Yeah. That's it. This, Terrence Mulligan, is the big one."

He excitedly ran to the bedroom and, rustling in the bottom of his sock drawer, extracted the handgun he had so successfully used in his earlier stick-ups. "What petty little stick-ups they were," he thought, "compared to this one ... the big heist!"

He returned to the sitting-room to plan the heist. Yes, it would work. Yes, that daring thief would be Terrence Mulligan.

As he worked through his plan, the race results came on. Oh what the heck, he thought, a little extra money while he waited to fence the jewels wouldn't go astray. In his excitement, he turned up the volume of the TV set.

A few minutes later, there was loud knocking on the front door. "Oh, Christ," he thought, "it's that bloody Mrs. Collins again." He turned down the volume, closed the door to the sitting room and went to answer the front door.

Alone in the sitting room, the face of the television newsreader reappeared on the TV screen. His voice told the empty room:

"In news just to hand, police report that the daring thief who earlier stole a million dollars worth of jewels from the National Museum has been gunned down in a shootout with police. Undercover police had followed the thief and cornered him in an alley behind the Museum. Police have identified the dead man as petty criminal.... Terrence Mulligan."


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