Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 116-120
Dusty Dexter PI is a continuous novel by Jan Richards. You can read a new instalment each weekday in your local paper, or catch up on the week's happenings online each Saturday.
Episode 116: Clay knows everything
I’m not sure the bluff’s working. Continue. "If they don’t hear from us by mid-afternoon they’ll send people looking for us."
Clay shakes his head, picks up the Heineken, drinks, replaces it on the wet ring on the table.
"Dusty, Dusty, Dusty. You see, I know that’s a lie.
"I know you haven’t even contacted the local police. And Pat stole your computer while you were at breakfast this morning. That’s what I’ve been doing, looking through your computer. I know exactly what you’ve told them."
He continues. "You show a great deal of initiative. I admire a girl who likes to work on her own, take the big risks for the big results. Under different circumstances I’d offer you a job."
Janet’s crying gets louder.
Captain Randy sits beside her, puts his hand on her thigh. "Janet, I like you. Maybe we can work something out."
Pat’s not having it. "Don’t play with ’em Randy, just f****n’ throw ’em over the side, shoot ’em."
Janet pushes his hand away, sobs.
He slaps her across the side of the head. "Then shut the f**k up."
Clay continues. "It should have been all over that night Smart pushed you off the road. Have to admit I was surprised you survived the accident. If Smart was actually smart, realised you’d stolen the book, and retrieved it, we might have been able to leave you alone."
Randy picks up Janet’s beer, hands it to her. When she ignores him he puts it to her mouth, beer runs over her chin.
Clay wants to tell his story. "Shame about Thommo. If he’d done that job properly he’d be here by now.
"Soon as he could get his boat out of the harbour he was out of there. Going to set himself up, operate a sailing school.
"At least he enjoyed his last couple of days, lived like a king on that boat of Manny’s while he distributed the dope."
He laughs. "Thommo was a sailor through and through, but he had a thing for that cruiser."
I try to think.
"We had to get rid of Marty. Too dumb, became a liability. Thought the feeding frenzy in the shark tank was genius, except there weren’t supposed to be any remains. Can’t blame the sharks really, Marty didn’t have a good head."
It’s my turn to show I know something. "I know about Evan, the other shark attack. So he was in on it."
"Evan and I were doing some business, so I did some background research, found out about the incident in California.
"Great way to dispose of a body. I asked Evan to take me on a back-room tour of the place, figured out the best way to do it.
"He wanted my money, I wanted his shark tank."
"So he was in on it with you?"
"No. Just provided the facility. Didn’t know about the plan."
Episode 117: Dusty plays for time
Evan's clean. At least Clay’s filling in the blanks. If we can get out of this I can close the case.
"What about Daz?"
"Did Daz know he was looking for opportunities for you to launder drug money?"
"Darren. Real estate, investment."
He stops as Janet’s hand reaches out and grabs the gun.
She points it at Randy’s lap.
Pat slams down her beer. "Stupid f****n’ slut."
Randy tries to grab the gun but Janet leaps over the table and lands beside me, then points the gun across the table at Randy’s chest.
Way to go Janet, was considering that myself.
Clay is leaning back again, hands behind his head, casual.
Janet puts both hands around the gun.
"Put the sails up and take us back."
Clay laughs again.
She swings the gun, points it at him. "I’m not joking."
"She’s not joking. Janet doesn’t joke." She also has no idea how to use a gun, but I’m not letting on that I know.
Pat waves her arms. "Don’t let her threaten you, do somethin’ Randy." She looks from Randy to Clay, back again.
Janet. "You can’t just ignore me, I’ll pull the trigger."
Clay puts his head on one side. Scratches one armpit. "Better take the safety catch off first."
We both look at the gun, fiddle, something moves. She points it at Randy, Clay.
Clay looks at me. "Thought you’d be the one to pick up the gun. I’m disappointed, Dusty."
"Tut tut. Bad language."
"I was waiting for the right time. Want some more information."
I’m stalling. He’s right, it doesn’t look good that Janet grabbed the gun, I need to make up some ground.
Janet glares at me.
"Just keep the gun pointed."
I turn to Clay. "Who told you we were here. Amanda was the only one knew, except Red and Hank."
"You did Dusty. You sent Randy photos of two hot girls who wanted to go sailing with him. He couldn’t believe his luck, emailed them straight to me. We figured it out before you even had the tickets booked. Decided this was the best place to get rid of you for good."
I hear a click, Janet’s pulled the trigger. Nothing. Clay and Randy laugh.
Clay puts a disappointed sound in his voice. "No bullets, Janet. Didn’t think we’d need bullets. Thought the sharks could do the job for us. Plenty of bullets though, if we do need them."
I start to understand what they have in mind.
Janet sobs again, throws the gun over the side.
"Plenty more of them downstairs too."
I’m not sure what to do next.
Pat’s riled. "Coulda fuckin’ told me. Thought she was gunna shoot someone."
Pat goes downstairs to find another gun, Clay and Randy drink beer, don’t seem to be in a hurry to get rid of us.
I put my arm around Janet’s shoulder, she sobs onto my bare skin. Now I really need a plan.
Episode 118: Time to negotiate
Captain Randy said we were five miles from shore. I can see the island. I figure if I can see it, we can swim to it.
The biggest problem isn’t the distance, it’s the sharks. It’s a last resort.
There’s another option, before Pat gets back. We can beg, grovel, offer our bodies. Promise not to tell if they let us go. Randy is obviously keen on Janet.
I whisper in her ear, "Work with me."
Then to Captain Randy and Clay, "I’ve got a proposal."
Clay stands. "I think that calls for more beer. Keep an eye on the girls, Randy."
I lean forward, earnest. "Captain Randy, I can see you like Janet. Bit skinny, but she’s fit, got a lot of energy, know what I mean."
Janet sits stock still beside me, pulls her knees together.
Captain Randy rubs his two-day growth. "Pat won’t like it. Suppose we could swap around. Don’t want to get bored."
I think he’s playing me, but I continue. "Look, you seem to be a much more reasonable man than Clay. Not a killer. What do you say? Both of us at your beck and call. You save our lives, we promise to keep your secrets."
Clay returns with two beers, and another gun. He puts it into the back of his shorts. He’s making a point, trying to scare us. "Would have got you another beer girls, but you haven’t finished the first."
Captain Randy takes a beer, says to Clay, "These ladies offered us their bodies, and their silence, in return for their lives."
"Thought they might." He seems to consider the proposal. "I think we should avail ourselves of their generous offer, then throw them over."
Captain Randy nods.
Our options are reducing. I look at Janet, we both look back towards the island. I’m starting to think we have more chance with the sharks, she seems to agree. If we’re going to swim that far we need goggles, and we don’t want blood in the water.
It’s time to negotiate. "So what’s the bottom line, Clay? You want to get rid of us, that’s it, no other options?"
"So what’re you going to do, shoot us in the back, throw us to the sharks."
"Sounds okay to me. What do you think, Randy?"
"At least give us a fighting chance."
"What have you got in mind?"
I think he’s humouring me, but I press on. I’m focussing on Evan’s words "we are not their preferred food source".
"Let us swim for it."
They both laugh. Clay can barely contain himself.
"With the bull sharks, and the tiger sharks, and all the other sharks?"
"At least we get a chance, and you might get to watch us get eaten. You missed the show with Marty."
I wish I hadn’t said that, Janet’s sobbing, again.
"You serious? You’d both try to swim, what, 10ks? This is the fuckin’ Pacific Ocean."
Episode 119: One last attempt at compromise
I'm prepared to swim for it, take a chance on the sharks, rather than being shot by Clay. Plus, I know we can swim that far. I hope Janet’s with me, don’t dare look at her.
I press on, I’ve got conditions.
"You can’t shoot at us. And we want our goggles."
They think we’re nuts, weigh up the odds.
Captain Randy scratches his groin. "You’ll be wishing we shot you when you see the first fin."
He’s probably right.
Pat reappears with an open bottle of white and a glass. She pours, sits. "When we gunna shoot these bitches?"
"Think we might give them a fighting chance, let them swim."
"Then shoot at ’em."
"Let them swim, watch the sharks get ’em."
"Shoot ’em first. Blood in the water attract the sharks."
I wish Pat had stayed downstairs.
Janet’s pulling herself together, she points at the backpack. "Goggles are in there."
Captain Randy picks it up, throws it at her. Then he stands, lifts the lid on a cabinet. "Got a better idea, I’ve got masks. Want you to see those big bastards when they come at you, I’ll even throw in the flippers."
This is good. I’m pleased, we’ll make better headway with the fins.
Janet picks up the backpack, opens it, digs around inside, pulls out the sun cream, puts it on the table.
Pat jeers. "Not gunna be in the water long enough to need sunburn cream."
The top of the bag’s open, Janet tilts it towards me, I peer into the darkness, remember the taser, the capsicum spray. My eyes meet Janet’s. No gun, but it’s better than nothing.
We slip feet into the fins, strap the masks around our heads, visors over our faces.
One last try at compromise. "You sure we can’t just forget all this? We go home, tell them we found nothing. You go on with your business."
"Too late. Swim now, or I shoot."
I put my hand into the backpack, pull out the taser, point it at Clay. Janet grabs the capsicum spray, and sprays towards all three of them across the table.
The taser hits Clay, he screams stiffens, then slumps onto the table. Randy and Pat, scream as the spray hits, put hands to their faces.
I move around the table to get the gun from the back of Clay’s shorts, but the flippers get in the way. Even though she can’t see properly, Pat beats me to it.
She points the gun wildly, screams as her eyes burn. "I’ll f****n’ kill both youse f****n’ sluts."
I think Pat with a gun is as bad as Clay, if not worse. And it won’t be long before Clay comes to. Randy pours beer over his hands, flushes his eyes.
"Keep spraying, Janet."
We manoeuvre to the side of the boat. Janet looks at me, no expression, sucks the mask onto her face.
In unison. "Swim."
Episode 120: We can do this
Janet and I jump over the side of the boat into the water, swim, frantic, side by side.
I expect Pat to shoot, I’m not disappointed. Half a dozen shots go wide, then silence. We have a chance, swim, and swim.
Janet stops. I stop. We look back - the sails are up, the boat’s sailing back towards the island. They’ve abandoned us to our fate.
She struggles with the snorkel. "This thing’s giving me the shits."
We unhook them from the masks.
"Better hang onto them, just in case."
We slide them under the bikini bottoms, along our thighs.
Janet doesn’t say anything about the predicament we’re in. She’s trying to stay calm, controlled. "We can do this. Take us about three hours. Pace yourself."
She’s gone into obsessive compulsive mode, running the figures in her head.
I’m the weak link. Wish I wasn’t so lazy, wish I’d done some training, put in a bit more effort on the morning swims.
We don’t mention the "s" word.
We swim, look up regularly to make sure we’re still headed in the right direction. I’m grateful the ocean’s flat, no swell, the current seems to be with us. The water’s deep, I have no idea how deep. It feels different.
If we get out of this I promise I will train more. Promise I will not take advantage of Janet’s friendship, will never drag her into one of my schemes again. Promise I will always tell Red what I am doing.
On the other hand, if we get out of this, I know enough to get Clay and Randy locked up, probably Pat too. Bitch.
And I’ll make a top reputation for myself as a PI.
My mind replays the conversation on the boat. It looks like Evan’s in the clear, but I never did get an answer on Daz.
Janet stops. The land doesn’t look any closer. She checks her watch.
"That’s an hour. How you going?"
More swimming. I see it flash through the corner of the mask, know I didn’t imagine it. Panic. Stop. Janet stops, takes one look at me.
"Shark?" It’s not a question.
We tread water.
I’m shaking, my heart hammers, adrenaline surges through me. Images from Jaws flash through my mind. Settle Dusty, you’re the one reckons she’s not afraid of sharks, have to keep Janet calm. "We have to keep swimming, nice and steady."
We continue to swim side by side. I wait for it to come back, search my memory for shark types and their behaviours. It was checking us out, might circle, come closer next time, maybe nudge one of us, decide if we’re worth it.
Then it’s underneath us, at least three metres long. I’m pretty sure it’s a tiger - a big fin half way down its back, short snout, broad flat head, thick body.
My stomach cramps.
Smooth strong strokes with its tail, swims away.
Next week: Dusty tries to remember shark behaviours - she's sure tigers are responsible for attacks on people…
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