Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 136-140

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 136: Evan comes clean
Evan pulls off board shorts, tightens the tie on his Speedos. Seems like a good opportunity to reconnect.

"Morning."

"Dusty." An edge.

"Sorry I didn’t get to you yesterday, cops questioned us most of the day. Then I had to look after Janet."

He nods, needs time to thaw.

We’re not the only early-morning swimmers. A dozen triathletes wheel up, peel off sweaty lycra, race each other into the water. They’re all like Janet, all about competition, I’m all about comfort. I’m dreading my triathlon swim leg, must call Greg, maybe his shoulder has improved.

A south-easterly blows at around 10knots, a one-metre swell dumps. Good conditions for the tri, if they hold, but I suspect the wind’s on the increase, swell too, which means carnage as swimmers, like me, get thrown around in the shore break. I put the thought out of my mind, go back to sweet-talking Evan.

"Nice day for it."

He grunts.

Perhaps I should try bonding after the swim, when he’s pumped. "Last one back buys coffee."

I hit out with him, hold on for 50 metres, fade. I’m stiff from the10k Vanuatu marathon, slow down, stretch out muscles. It’s tough going, but the water’s warm and the sun’s on my back.

At the beach Evan sits in the sun waits for me, towel around his waist.

Under the showers I rinse salt and sand out of my hair. I know he’s watching, take my time, let the water run over me. Then I towel off and climb into shorts and tank top.

Flattery’s always a good opener. "Good swim. You’re pretty fit."

"Been working on it."

I sit beside him, decide to jump in, clear the air. "Should have told me about the shark attack in California."

"Didn’t think anyone would find out."

"Wasn’t hard, wonders of the internet. Probably didn’t take Clay long either."

"Arsehole. Didn’t know he was going to drop Marty in the tank. Have to admit it wasn’t that much of a surprise though."

Didn’t expect it to be this easy. "What happened? He talk to you about it?"

"Not directly. He knew we wanted an investor, asked for figures, projections, the usual. We supplied everything, he was interested.

"Then he asks me to take him for a look around, see what goes on behind the scenes.

"We’re up top, looking down on Shark Central and he says, ’Got a bloke I wouldn’t mind feeding to that mob’. Something like that. I didn’t say anything.

"Then he says, ’Perfect crime, no evidence, just like last time’. He’s telling me he knows about California, so I say, ’That was an accident’, then he says, ’Not bad for figures I bet’.

"That was it, didn’t take him seriously. We went back downstairs and I showed him around a bit more.

"It was the day of the cocktail party. Had no idea he was going to feed Marty to the sharks. If I had I wouldn’t have turned the lights on, given him an audience, would I?"

 

Episode 137: A great story to tell

I believe Evan, Clay used him.

"So I don’t have to worry that if you get the shits with me you’ll throw me into the tank."

He laughs. "Not a bad idea."

"Anything else I should know?"

"Not off the top of my head."

"I’ll finish the proposal. Drop in Monday?"

"Plan on staying. We got work to do."

"Great."

"Coffee?" Evan wants to talk.

"Sure."

We cross the road, order, find a table. The place is full of triathletes, shaved thighs shiny with sweat.

"Heard you came across a big one over there."

"Yeah. Bit scary."

"I bet. How’d you handle it?"

"Kept swimming. Janet was pretty freaked, but we thought we might as well keep going. Tried to remember everything I knew about sharks, which isn’t much. Think it was a tiger, looked like that big bastard at Shark Central."

"Circle you?"

"Yeah, couple of times. Had a good look, went away, came back. Nudged me in the thigh. Pushed me a few metres." I rub my thigh, it’s not bruised, but it’s tender. Probably just imagining it.

"Could have been a tiger. Typical tiger behaviour." He’s wearing his marine scientist look. "Told you we’re not their preferred food source."

"That’s what I kept thinking."

"How big?"

"Much bigger than me. Would have weighed a lot more. Bloke caught a bull shark out there a few days earlier. Tail got him, big bruise, cut right into his shin. And that’s after he fought it for half an hour."

"Lucky you didn’t come across one of those."

Maria delivers the coffees.

"Pretty gutsy move to swim 10ks in the ocean like that."

"Didn’t have a choice. Clay threatened to shoot us."

He shifts in his seat, looks uncomfortable. "How was Janet?"

"Terrified. Cried a lot." I have to give her her due. "She grabbed the gun, it was on the table. Pulled the trigger, once we got the safety off. Had no bullets, they laughed at us. Wish she did shoot the bastard."

"So the gun wasn’t loaded. Thought you said they were going to shoot you?"

"Pat tried to."

"Who’s Pat?"

"Old slut works with them. Clay went and got another gun. They didn’t believe we’d swim for it, even gave us masks, snorkels, bloody flippers. My calves are still stiff. At least we gave them something to think about."

"What do you mean?"

"Secret. Didn’t tell the cops this bit."

He nods.

"I had my taser and capsicum spray in Janet’s backpack. We were getting stuff out of the bag, getting ready to swim for it, then we pulled the taser and the spray on them. I got Clay with the taser, right in the chest. Janet got Pat and Randy with the spray. Even with the spray Pat got the gun, bitch. She was screaming blue murder, waving it around, shooting at anything. We leapt overboard, swam like buggery."

He shakes his head. "Not many people got a story like that to tell."

"Guess not. Janet doesn’t seem to see the positives."

 

Episode 138: Ready for the triathlon

Evan laughs, "I’m not surprised Janet doesn’t see the positives, how long’s she out of action?"

"Few weeks. About six, actually."

"Dangerous work. Should stick with the PR."

"So far Ocean World’s more dangerous. Well, for Marty anyway."

He raises an eyebrow, can’t argue with that.

"So did you get any money from Clay?"

"Not yet."

"Don’t think you’re likely to see him for a while."

"Figured that."

I pay for the coffees. "See you Monday."

I walk past the juice bar. Triathletes are lined up for their post-training treat. No caramel macchiatos or lattes. They order high-energy nutrition drinks packed with omega 3 and anti-oxidents, guaranteed to deliver their daily needs of half-a-dozen different vitamins and minerals.

Hi-tech bikes and coordinated helmets lean against tables, hand rails.

I hear snatches of conversation about personal bests, race plans, tapering schedules, weather reports. Some of them are super fit, taut, tanned, some less so, but all of them are totally focussed.

I wish it was over, and it hasn’t even started. By tonight, roads along the beach will be closed to traffic. The carpark, surrounded by wire fencing, is a maze of empty bike racks. Marquees line the beachfront carpark. Today they’ll be stocked with specialist sports gear, ready for triathletes and their credit cards. Towers have been erected for TV cameras, huge screens set up to show the progress of athletes over all sections of the course. And the final hundred metres of roadway up to the finish line has been painted dark blue, the word Mooloolaba stencilled in white at regular intervals. Temporary stands and marquees await special guests and corporate sponsors. A big digital clock signals the finish.

Some triathletes will sprint across the line, others will jog, still others will stumble into the arms of officials who will remove their timing chips, spray them with water and point them towards the recovery area. Janet would be in her element.

I ignore the adrenaline-charged athletes, head for home. I’m going to see Red, need to get back into her good books. I’ve paid some tuition fees, and read some of the PI material, printed out a few questions to ask her.

I dress to please Red’s idea of professionalism - black trousers, a white business shirt, underneath it a flesh coloured bra, shirt buttoned over the cleavage. Boring.

I drive into the Red Hot Security carpark, pull up as a couple of security guards finish cigarettes.

Thug 2. It’s him. The crew cut, sideburns, squashed nose. Thug 2 works for Red.

I sit in the car, head down so they don’t see me. I’m sure I can get this to work in my favour. Red was upset about the crane incident, and that wasn’t my fault.

I sneak after them, newspaper over my face. Red addresses a group of them in the briefing room, operations for security during the triathlon. I peer over the paper, it’s definitely him. I scan the room, can’t see Thug 1.

 

Episode 139: A chat with Grunter

I make myself at home in Red’s office, phone Janet. "Guess who I just saw?"

"Don’t know." Janet’s not in the mood for games.

"Thug 2."

"Kidding!"

I have her attention. "Works for Red. He’s in the briefing room."

"You have to tell Red."

"Soon as she’s finished. Don’t want him to see me, make a run for it."

"Call me back. Tell me what he says."

"Will do. How’s the foot?" It seems like the right thing to ask.

"Fine. Called Macca. He’s going to come over after work, pick me up, then we’re going to his place to check out the phone. You should probably be there."

"Great. Call you back."

I wait for Red, pull out the PI stuff, pretend to read it. Consider ducking out for coffee, but I don’t want to miss her, and I don’t want Thug 2 to get out of the building.

"What’re you doin’?"

"Red. I saw Thug 2. He works for you, was in the briefing."

"What’re you talkin’ about?"

"Thug 2. From the crane, the one that kicked Janet. I just saw him here."

She’s already back out the door. "Show me."

There are security guards in uniform everywhere, I can’t find him. He’s not in the briefing room where some of them are still chatting, or the rec room.

"Might be having a smoke." He is. I point.

"Leave this to me." She strides towards him, he sees me, backs up.

"Oi. Grunter." She walks up to him, slow, her hand resting on the butt of her gun. "Want you to come in, have a chat with me and Dusty."

He seems to consider his options, must be more afraid of Red than Cash, walks towards Red. She ushers us into her office, closes the door. Grunter and I sit, Red stands behind her desk.

"Dusty recognised you, Grunter. Says it was you took her and Janet for a ride in a crane. Would that be right?" The tone is light, but there’s an edge to her voice.

"Look, Red. Was a bit of a joke. We weren’t gunna hurt ’em."

"You kicked a woman, bruised her, and scared the shit out of both of them."

I wasn’t scared.

He doesn’t reply, gives me a surly look.

I give him one back.

"We can play this one of two ways, Grunter. You answer my questions, and keep your job. Or you don’t answer my questions and I take you over to have a chat with Senior Sergeant Stern.

"We were told to teach ’em a lesson."

"Who sent you?"

I expect him to say Cash, am surprised by his answer.

"Smythe."

"Please explain."

"The councillor."

"I know who he is."

Smythe, the councillor behind the resort project on the range. The project Cash wanted Manny to work on. Smythe, with Cash and wives at the cocktail party, buddies. Smythe doing Cash’s dirty work.

Janet will be interested in this.

 

Episode 140: Red doles out punishment

Red takes in the information, indicates Grunter should continue.

"Smythe gave us keys to the development site, and the rig. Told us to take ’em up for a ride. Said to tell ’em Cash was upset about his reputation because of the newspaper article, not to write any more."

"Who did the job with you?"

"Crane driver, works for Cash."

"How much he pay you?"

"Two hundred bucks."

"And the rest?"

"Two hundred. That’s it."

"Two hundred to kick around a couple of girls. That’s what you owe me then. In free time. Now piss off."

He jumps out of his chair, glowers at me, hurries out the door.

"What do you mean he owes you?"

"I’m the boss. I decide on the punishment. Why are you here?"

Hang on a minute. I get taken up in a crane and threatened and Red decides on the punishment. This is going to be harder than I thought. I want to push, decide to use my better judgement, let it go.

She’s still standing behind her chair, shows no sign of sitting for a chat.

"I wanted to tell you I paid the PI fees, did some study. Got some questions for you." I dig around in the new handbag.

She sits.

"Grunter, what’s his real name?"

"Grant."

Time to lighten the air. "Bet Grunter’s not the nickname his mum had in mind." She cracks a half smile so I push on. "You reckon Smart’s under surveillance yet? We bumped into him yesterday."

"You were supposed to be at home."

"Had to get a new handbag."

Red shakes her head, drops it into her hands.

"Grunter dropped mine over the side of a crane, remember."

She picks up the phone. "I’ll check."

She dials Hank, doesn’t put the phone on speaker.

"Stern... Got Smart on surveillance yet? Dusty says she bumped into him yesterday... Good... Just had a word with one of the blokes took Dusty and Janet up in the crane. Don’t think he’ll be up to anything like that again... Any sign of boats? Clay? Randy?"

She listens, puts her feet up on the desk, work boots. "What’s Smart been up to?" Leans back at the desk, elbows out, phone up to her ear. "Thanks, mate."

She doesn’t repeat any of Hank’s side of the conversation.

"Keep your head down. Less questions, more study. Do some PR work. And look after Janet."

I’m dismissed, and that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.

I pass Grunter in the corridor. He snarls at me.

I’m not in the mood. "Back off, moron."

He moves to block my path, pushes his face into mine. "I’ll get you. Can’t hide behind Red forever."

Wish I had some spray, could give him a blast, but Red hasn’t replaced the one I took on the boat, doesn’t even know about that, and it’s not the right time to ask for another one. Flip him the bird, as I walk out the door.

 

Next week: The conversation’s strained between Dusty and Janet.

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty’s website at www.dustydexterpi.blogspot.com. Find out what else Dusty and Janet are up to.



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