Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 121-125
Episode 121: Dusty tries to stay calm
I try to remember whether tigers attack, stalk, or are just plain curious. I know they’re responsible for attacks on people.
The doco on shark attacks jumps into my mind. White pointers coming up from underneath, jaws open.
A scientist with plastic sharks and dolls, thrusting movements as he simulated the method of attack, then discussed the injuries they caused.
Deep scars where teeth had grabbed soft tissue, unclenched, reached higher, thigh flesh, dragged them down.
This is not helping Dusty. I look at Janet, see fear in her eyes.
Maybe Clay and Randy wouldn’t have shot us. Maybe if I’d got down on my knees, offered them sex for the remainder of their lives, or for as long as they could get it up.
I feel it, before I see it - faster this time, and straight at us. Black eyes as big as my hand stare at us, fin slicing the surface, water peeling back behind it. Feel the tug as it swims past me, powerful.
Please, tiger. We don’t taste good, you won’t like us, plenty of nice fish in the sea. It’s gone again.
Janet stops. "It’s checking us out."
"Yeah. Hope it’s decided we don’t look too good. Keep swimming, easy." I try to sound calm but my voice shakes, the croissant I ate on the boat in my throat.
I try to remember the best way to stop them, if they do attack. Snatches of conversations over coffee, high and dry, come to mind.
"Punch them in the nose."
"Poke their eyes out, get your fingers right in."
"Grab them by the gills, it’s the most sensitive spot."
Wish I had a gun.
It’s back behind me. On the way past it nudges my thigh, like being hit by a brick. Pushes me across into Janet.
I reckon that’s his final pass. Either he’s coming back, for the kill, or he’s not.
We swim, look at each other each time we breathe. Wait. No return visit. Too scared to hope it’s over we keep swimming, and swimming.
I have to stop.
Janet pulls up beside me. "Think it’s gone?"
"Didn’t like the look of my thigh."
She laughs, we both laugh. A bit too much.
The island’s getting closer.
"About another hour, you okay?"
Actually, I’m stuffed, but I know I don’t have much choice. "Yeah."
We rinse masks, suck them onto faces, swim. My arms ache, so do my legs, I’m not used to wearing fins. Even though we’re not swimming fast I’m breathing hard, working hard.
I try to take my mind off the situation, think about the odds of another shark finding us, maybe one that’s not just curious. A bull shark, they’re not known to be fussy eaters, hunt in packs. Or a white pointer, but I don’t think they come up this far north.
Not good, need something more positive. My proposal for Evan. There are heaps of promotion opportunities for Ocean World…
Episode 122: Another fin breaks the surface
I swim, think about Evan, Ocean World. I have contacts in TV. We’ll offer shark dives in Shark Central to the travel show presenters, start a campaign around that tiger Evan reckons started the feeding frenzy.
We have to name him. Terry Tiger, too soft. Travis Tiger, too poncy. Needs to be something tough, Titan Tiger. A possibility.
Maybe it’s a female. I like it, a female with bite. Tiger Tracy, like cyclone Tracy. Maybe something like Cranky Carrie or Angry Angie or...
A dolphin surfaces beside me, opens her blowhole, spurts water a foot into the air. Her way of saying "hi, it’s just me, nothing serious".
I stop. Janet stops.
The fin breaks the water a few feet from us, then it dives, comes up again 20 metres ahead of us. Several fins.
While I watch, I catch my breath. I’m not cosmic about dolphins, but this feels special.
Janet smiles, "I reckon they’re going to see us home."
I look toward the island. We have about a kilometre to swim by my reckoning. I can make it.
The dolphins hang with us, swim off, then return, come up close, spray, let us know they’re there. I start naming them. Dolly Dolphin. A baby, Daisy Dolphin.
I’m losing it, and I’m running on empty. Janet keeps getting ahead, stops, waits for me to catch up. I have to have a break, float on my back.
Then I see the coral reef - it’s low tide, the coral outcrop’s visible above the water.
Come on, Dusty, head down, 200 strokes, no stopping. I swim right up to the coral, exhausted.
Janet swims back and forth along the drop off of the reef, looks at fish, corals. I’m getting out.
I float over the top of the coral, scrape my thighs, try to stand. It’s all sharp edges, coral dead, baked by the sun.
I find sandy bits for my hands, feet, survey the area on all fours, then sit in the most inviting looking spot.
Head down, arms hanging, shoulder muscles burning. Can’t even be bothered to take off the fins.
Janet floats up beside me. "Great coral out there, fantastic fish."
She looks like she’s just completed a training swim. Pumped, ready for more.
"Shut up, Janet."
We have 100 metres of coral to negotiate before we get to the shore. I take a deep breath, pull off the fins, take off the mask, pull the snorkel out of my togs, try to place my feet in the sandy hollows between dried up, sun-bleached coral.
Graze my feet, ankles on the sharp edges.
Janet’s behind me. Falls, screams. "Think I broke my ankle."
Hope you didn’t. I turn, she’s balanced on some coral, leg up, hand grasping her foot.
She yells. "F**k, f**k, f**k."
"Give it a minute. Be all right."
"I heard it, something snapped. It hurts." She wails. "I won’t be able to do the triathlon."
Episode 123: Life on the edge
I don't believe it. We swim 10 ks in the Pacific Ocean, with a tiger shark, and Janet falls over as soon as we get to land.
Then the first thing she thinks about is the bloody triathlon. Great loss. Don’t be like that, Dusty, try to placate her.
"It’s probably not that bad."
"I can’t even put it down." She’s tries to place her foot on a patch of sand. Winces. She can’t walk.
I’ll have to leave her here, sitting on the coral, find someone to help, no idea where, come back for her. I can’t carry her. Surely she can hobble.
"Why don’t we ditch the gear, you lean on me."
Then she waves, I follow her look.
A ni-Vanuatu man walks across the coral towards us. He makes it look easy, is soon only metres away. He stares at us. Two waterlogged white girls in bikinis who have just appeared out of the ocean. I wonder what he’s thinking.
Janet takes control, seems to think her intimate knowledge of locals puts her at an advantage. "Hi."
He looks at us, at the ocean. Has a question in his eyes. "You swim?"
Janet. "We were on a boat."
He looks out at the ocean. There is no boat.
"Maybe later, Janet." I smile at him. "It’s a long story." And I haven’t got the energy. I point at her ankle. "Janet hurt her ankle. Can you help her across the coral?"
He nods, smiles, lifts her up, carries her across the coral. I stumble along behind, carrying the fins, snorkels, masks.
He deposits Janet on the sand, in the shade of a tree. "I get boss." Leaves us.
I lie beside Janet in the sand, too tired to move. Start laughing. "Can’t say you don’t live life on the edge with Dusty Dexter."
She’s not amused, holds the ankle. It doesn’t look good, already puffy.
I close my eyes, visualise a Tusker, condensation on the glass. In five minutes the ni-Vanuatu man is back with the boss, and two bottles of water.
I’m dehydrated, sunburnt, exhausted. Alive. I reckon the Angels would think I kicked arse.
We’re not far from a resort, the manager’s an Aussie. We tell him the story - the whole story - he’s stunned, not happy about the drugs.
He offers a shower, food, a room for the night. We decide to hide out at the resort, sneak onto our scheduled flight tomorrow. Hope Clay and Captain Randy don’t find out the sharks didn’t have us for lunch.
Janet phones Peter. He’s going to pick up our gear from the hotel, drive to the resort. He’s also going to check on Clay and Captain Randy, see if they’ve returned to the harbour. And he’s going to bring a paramedic to check out Janet’s ankle.
I consider phoning Red but decide, since we’re safe, I might as well just update her when we get home.
Episode 124: Good investigative practice?
Janet's giving me the silent treatment, seems to think her ankle is my fault. The ankle’s swollen, very swollen.
The manager, Tom, has given her Panadol but it doesn’t seem to have helped much.
The chef cooks us fish and chips, some sort of yam, very tasty. I decide to finish my holiday lying in the gazebo, gazing out over the Pacific Ocean.
Janet’s lying some distance away, her foot wrapped in ice, elevated.
It’s been a good trip, despite the unexpected marathon swim, and I have uncovered a drug running operation. I know there is a boat full of drugs headed for Mooloolaba.
And once I tell Hank and Red about the conversation on the boat, them threatening to shoot us, then leaving us to drown or be eaten by sharks, I’m sure they’ll arrest them.
I think I make a pretty good private investigator.
I share my thoughts with Janet. "Considering the success of the undercover operation, I wonder if Red can fast-track me through the PI course."
She ignores me for a moment then snaps back. "It hasn’t occurred to you that the undercover part of the operation wasn’t undercover at all, since Clay and Randy knew who we were, and why we were there.
"Or that being abandoned in the middle of the Pacific Ocean might not be considered good investigation practice."
I think that’s a negative view of the situation, the pain must be getting to her.
She continues. "Not to mention the other disasters, like being run off the road."
She’s still banging on about that car. "You’ll get a new car, Janet."
"You don’t get it. Just because, against great odds might I add, we happen to have survived, so far, doesn’t mean it was a successful operation."
I justify myself. "We know there’s a boat load of drugs headed to Mooloolaba right now, and we know who sent it, Clay and Captain Randy. I think that’s pretty good.
"I bet Clay and Randy won’t be hanging around, waiting for the local cops to find them. And once they find out we’re still alive you don’t think they might come after us again?"
True. "It’s not like they’re going to get another opportunity to take us out to sea and shoot us."
"No. They’ll just do it at home, of maybe at the cafe, or at the office."
She’s being unnecessarily negative.
Red and Hank will understand. We’ll get a result. "The cops’ll get them. If not the local cops then Hank will. And we’ll get Smart too, since it was him drove us off the road."
I bet Smart will be waiting at the other end for the drug shipment. They’ll take it up to Thommo’s place.
We’ll stake him out, wait until he makes a move then grab him, the guys on the boat and the drugs in one swoop.
I elect not to share this piece of logistical planning with Janet, she wouldn’t get it. I’m keen to get back, finish off the investigation. After a snooze.
Episode 125: Clay covers up
Peter arrives with the paramedic, Mark, one of the guys I was drinking with at the bar, after the swim out to the boat.
Janet hops over to Peter, is rewarded with a big hug.
The prognosis on the ankle is mixed. Basically, Mark’s not sure, it could be broken, it could be ligaments. Every time he touches it Janet screams.
He recommends an X-ray when we get home, gives her some stronger pain killers. In the meantime she’s to continue the ice and elevation.
He’s also brought an ancient pair of crutches so she can get around. She’ll be a spectator at the triathlon.
While they’re fussing over Janet I open my luggage, find my laptop inside.
I pull it out, a question on my face. Clay said Pat had stolen the laptop, that he’d been into it, knew what was on it.
I hold it up so Janet can see.
She indicates I should open her suitcase.
Her backpack’s on top, squashed in with her clothes.
She asks Peter. "The laptop and the backpack were in the room?"
"Yeah. That’s everything."
Clay has returned our belongings to the room.
I think about that. We’re supposed to be dead, this way there’s no proof we were on Captain Randy’s boat.
Everything was in the room, as though we walked out of the hotel room for a day of sightseeing, and never walked back in. Clever.
Janet’s thinking what I’m thinking. "I took photos, this morning."
I pull the camera out of the backpack, hand it to her, she turns it on, flicks.
"Gone." She keeps flicking. "So are the ones of the other boat, the ones I took when we went paddling. Even the one of that bloke we spoke to."
I open the laptop but the battery’s flat. Is he smart enough to have deleted my emails with Captain Randy?
I reckon he is.
Janet tells Peter and Mark about Clay threatening us, and about Pat and Captain Randy and the gun. She makes a big deal out of how she grabbed the gun, pointed it at Clay and Randy.
I wish I’d been the one to grab the gun, although she looked pretty silly when she fired it and nothing happened.
"Wasn’t even loaded."
Then she gets onto the swim, carries on about the shark attack. How it circled us, checked us out, came back.
"It wasn’t an attack, it didn’t attack anyone. Nudged me in the thigh, that’s all."
Janet tells them how she had to keep stopping so I could catch up.
Then she tells Peter everything Clay said on the boat about the drugs.
Before he picked up our gear, Peter talked to his father, said he was going to visit the local cops.
We’re to stay put. Clay wants us dead, thinks we’re dead. We have to stay dead, as far as he’s concerned.
Pete and Mark head back to Port Vila. Peter will collect us tomorrow, take us to the airport.
Are you a fan? Check out Dusty’s website at www.dustydexterpi.blogspot.com. Find out what else Dusty and Janet are up to.
Next week: Red’s not happy, says Dusty was out of line. She doesn’t get it.