Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 106-110
Dusty Dexter PI is a continuous novel by Jan Richards. You can read a new installment each weekday in your local paper, or catch up on the week's happenings online each Saturday.
Episode 106: No time to think
Keep going, Dusty. A thought flashes into my mind, that boarding this boat, in the dark, is possibly not the smartest thing I've ever done. No time for thinking.
It's so dark I can't see much, but as far as I can tell it looks like any other sail boat. I find the hatch. It's pitch black in there, but I decide to go in anyway.
I'm dripping wet, slip on the steps, stumble, knock over something that shatters. S**t. "What the f**k!"
The voice is metres from where I'm standing, in glass, and I've cut my foot.
This is not good.
I start back up the stairs, hear movement behind me, the beam of a torch flicks over my legs.
"Stop. F****n' stop right there."
I'm at the top of the stairs, he's coming after me, then he stands in the glass.
I'm sure I've got glass in my foot, sure it's bleeding. The glass hasn't stopped him, he's coming up the stairs, light shining up through the hatch.
I consider my options.
I'm bleeding, I'm being followed by a man with a torch, but as yet no sign of a gun.
I can go down to the back of the boat where I got on, but he'll be able to see me, or I can jump over the side.
One side I'll be hemmed in between the boats, the other side and either I head back to shore in the opposite direction to where Janet's waiting for me, or go back around Randy's boat. It's further, but the boat'll hide me from him.
His arm appears at the top of the hatch, torch in hand.
I step across a pile of ropes and feel the glass cut further into my foot, then I grab the railing, take a deep breath and swan dive into the harbour.
I head around the front of the boat, away from the hatch, swim underwater as long as I can, come up for a breath.
I peer back towards the shore, can't see Janet for Randy's boat, but I see someone running from the house across the lawn, which is now lit up, towards the tinny.
Back up on Joey's boat the man with the torch is still cursing, the beam of light pointing over the back of the boat into the water. He can't see me.
I take another breath, more breaststroke underwater heading towards Randy's boat.
Through the water I hear the engine of the tinny start up - I'm going to have to keep an eye on it, don't want him to go over the top of me, slice me up with the outboard motor.
I bob up not far from Randy's boat, hide alongside it.
The bloke on the boat is now focusing the torch between the two boats, I have to get around the other side, stay close to the boat. Dive underwater again, swim.
Episode 107: Nothing like adrenaline
I surface for another breath, see the tinny headed towards Joey's boat, I don't think he's looking for anyone in the water.
I take another deep breath, a metre under the surface swim away from the boats in the opposite direction to the tinny towards the bank.
Ten, fifteen strokes, have to come up for air. Pop just my head above the water, try not to gasp. Suck in another breath, back underwater.
Another ten strokes and I'm already running out of air, and I'm paranoid I'm bleeding into the water. Don't think sharks Dusty.
The engine stops. I come up again, heart hammering, gasping. I'm not that far from the bank, but I'm a fair way from Janet, or at least where Janet was, and I know I can't get out on my own.
Back at the boats the bloke with the torch screams at the guy in the tinny.
"Some f****n' bitch got on the boat, must be swimmin'."
The torch beam hits the water, but it's not strong enough to reach me. I breaststroke on top of the water, almost at the bank. Where's Janet?
I stage whisper. "Janet!"
I love you, Janet. She's about 10 metres further down the bank.
She waves me over. "Come down here it's dark."
A few more strokes.
She peers over the bank at me. "What happened? Heard a crash. Thought you must have dived in, kept an eye out for you when you came up for a breath. Should be able to hold your breath longer than that."
"Think I'm bleeding."
She reaches down and I grab her hand. She tries to pull me out, but I slip out of her grasp plunge back into the water.
She lies on her stomach on the grass. "Here." Both hands. I can't get enough leverage. She gets onto her knees, grabs my hands, forearms, wrenches me half out of the water. I push against the bank, end up on top of her.
"Get off. You wet my dress."
"My dress." Roll off onto my back.
We look at the boats - he's still shining the torch over the water - lie on the grass.
"Don't think he can see us."
"Better get out of here."
"Think I've got glass in my foot."
"What did you break?"
"Buggered if I know, couldn't see a thing."
"So we risk life and limb and you couldn't see anything."
"He's not shooting at us."
It's too dark to see my foot. I feel around, find something sharp, pull it out.
"Got my thongs?"
She hands me the thongs, sarong.
The tinny starts up again, heads back to shore, torch beam crisscrossing the water.
I can stand on the foot. We stay out of the light, dart between palm trees and buildings, make it back to the room where I fall onto the bed.
My foot's bled all over the thong, but it doesn't hurt. In fact I feel fantastic, nothing like adrenaline.
Episode 108: Dangerous line of work
Janet gives me the silent treatment, doesn't appreciate my heroic investigation of a drug boat.
She rummages through her luggage, pulls out a first aid kit, cleans the foot, applies some band aids.
Then she says, in a very professional tone, she thinks I need stitches, says to elevate it, not to walk on it.
"Have to go meet Captain Randy."
"You're insane. I'm going to meet Peter."
She goes into the bathroom, returns in another of my sun dresses. "Other one's wet." Walks out the door.
I hobble to the bar fridge, grab a Tusker, take Janet's advice, elevate the foot on the balcony railing.
Both boats are now lit up like they were last night, and through the binoculars I can see activity on board.
I wonder what I broke, maybe a hurricane lamp, and I wonder how much blood I left on the boat.
The bloke inside must have been asleep on his watch, idiot, and he can't have had a gun, or I reckon he would have used it.
So, they know someone was on board, they just don't know who. He realised it was a woman, guess the bikini was a giveaway, still they don't know which woman.
Could have been someone accidentally boarded the wrong boat, at night... probably not, Dusty.
Guess they'll figure someone's interested in the cargo, and I don't even have any proof there are drugs on the boat.
Wonder if Randy's still at the bar, downing farewell drinks with Joey and his crew? Doubt it, he's probably back at the boat. I better put in an appearance anyway, just in case.
The empty Tusker's on the vanity. I'm showered, hair more-or-less dry. The sun dress Janet had on when she pulled me out of the harbour is dry enough to wear, if a little grass stained. I slip on a pair of flat sandals. At reception I ask for a cab.
I haven't met Captain Randy, but I know he knows me. I limp up to the bar, find a stool, order a beer.
Hugo sees me, waves. I wave him over.
"Hi there. Thought Captain Randy might be here tonight?"
"Missed him. Heard someone tried to get onto one of the boats. They left."
As anticipated. I give him a conspiratorial wink.
"Wanted to have a look."
"Yeah. Swam out, got on board, was having a look around when something broke, woke up the bloke on board, had to swim for it." I point to the bandage under my foot.
He looks impressed. "Dangerous line of work."
"Someone's got to do it."
I'm all dressed up with no Captain Randy to meet and a fair level of residual adrenaline.
Hugo buys me a beer. His real estate friend buys me a beer - we chat. He's from northern New South Wales, hasn't been home for years.
Reg joins us, a paramedic, a teacher. We drink and talk crap, no Randy, or drugs, or Janet.
Episode 109: Janet's drought's broken
We drink Tuskers, and talk. There's a bond - Aussies away from home. The energy level rises, and the noise and the smoke. We drink more beer, flirt. I start to think the sail boat operator's pretty cute.
Then I notice Pat, at a corner table, with Harvey.
Are they following us? Was Janet right about Pat being on Randy's boat? If so, she does know Captain Randy.
Maybe he's checking us out before we get on the boat. Understandable, wouldn't want just anyone on a boat like that.
Anyway, Pat and Harvey weren't following us earlier, I checked, so they don't know it was me on the boat.
I walk home, the cut on my heel anaesthetised.
I need to contact Randy, send an email: Captain Randy, Sorry I missed you tonight. Hope we can go sailing tomorrow, Dusty.
It's late, and Janet's not home. I take one last beer out to the balcony, put my foot up, peer through the binoculars. The boats are still lit up.
An email: Dusty, Sorry I missed you tonight. Would you and Janet like to come snorkelling tomorrow morning?
Drop over to the boat after breakfast. Captain Randy.
Excellent, I set the alarm, fall asleep.
Janet opens the door at 4am. I turn on the bedside lamp.
"Don't tell me you talked for eight hours."
She doesn't answer, but one look at her face is enough. "Tell Dusty all about it."
"He's very nice."
"That's it? It's been a long drought, Janet. Hope it was worth the wait."
She smiles, no doubt it was.
"How many hours talking, how many hours shagging?"
She pulls off the sundress as she walks into the bathroom, ignores the question.
Decide I'll try again in the morning.
"Going snorkelling with Captain Randy tomorrow. Make that in a few hours."
"You sure that's a good idea?"
"He has no idea why we're here."
"I told Peter about the drugs. He wasn't happy, said his father wouldn't be happy either. Bad for Vanuatu, they don't want drugs here."
"Drugs aren't here, they're just coming through, on the way to great drug-taking nations like Australia."
"I told him that. He doesn't like that the harbour is being used for drug deals."
Fair enough. Peter may even come in handy.
I drag Janet out of bed at 8am. Randy's boat sits on its own, Joey's must have sailed early this morning.
I'm pumped, over breakfast I go through our aims for today.
"This is a reconnaissance mission. All we want to do is have a look around the boat, chat with him.
See we can find out about the other boat, about him. He'll be expecting us to ask lots of questions, thinks we're looking at a sailing expedition with him."
"Don't worry about it, it's just what I told him to get him interested."
"What did you tell him?"
For someone who had sex all night Janet's a bit antsy.
Episode 110: The undercover plan
I explain my plan for Captain Randy. "I told him we might be interested in going on a sailing trip with him."
"What sort of trip?"
"A discover yourself on the Pacific Ocean trip. That's what he does. Gives people life experiences. We need a cover."
"You know, background. What we do, where we're from, stuff like that."
"I can see you've thought this through." Sarcastic.
"We'll say we're from Sydney."
"I've only been there twice."
"Harbour Bridge, Opera House, the Rocks. We live in Manly, catch the ferry to work in the city."
"You're a journalist, make stuff up. Randy's American, probably never been to Sydney."
"He's a sailor, it's got a big harbour." She signals for more coffee. "What do we know about him?"
"He's a drug baron."
"Drug baron. Do you get all your PI terms from television?"
"Just leave it to me. Okay?" I'm peeved. This is going to be a nice day snorkelling, with a bit of investigation work thrown in.
"Wonder if he's even got snorkels?"
"Of course he has."
"Might take goggles, just in case."
Back in the room Janet throws items into her backpack. "Anything you need to take?"
"I don't know, you're the PI. A recorder or something."
Hadn't thought about that, haven't even brought it. I open my bag, pull out the taser and the capsicum spray, hand them to her.
"You think we'll need them?" A hint of panic in her voice.
"No. Just insurance."
She puts them in with the SPF30+, hats, goggles, digital camera, the iPhone.
Janet notices. "I better put a waterproof bandaid on that."
She does stuff to my foot, I look out at the view, say another silent thank-you to Amanda.
"So the sex was good?"
"Mmm." She's pretending to concentrate on the foot.
"Where'd you go? Or were you on the boat? Romance under the stars, the gentle rocking of the hull, rocking harder and harder."
"On the boat."
"Come on. Share some of the joy."
Nothing. For someone who usually won't shut up, Janet's surprisingly reticent when it comes to talking about sex, that's why I goad her, but I'm running out of enthusiasm, want to get to Randy's boat.
She finishes with my foot.
I hop over to the bed, slip on thongs.
Janet sits beside me, lies back. "I'm soooo tired."
"Come on. Let's do this." I'm excited. This is what being a private investigator's all about - exotic locations, undercover operations. And I'm sure a few hours with Captain Randy will give me the information I need to go back and bust open the whole Pacific Ocean drug trade. Hank will be impressed, Red too, she might even give me more money, business cards.
Captain Randy's waiting for us. I wave from the shore, he waves back, hops into the tinny to fetch us.
Janet yawns. "Any sign of a gun and I'm out of there."
"What're you going to do? Swim?"
Next week: Captain Randy plays host as they glide out of the harbour.
If you would like to know more about Dusty and Janet visit the website www.dustydexterpi.blogspot.com