Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 141-145
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 141: Conversation’s strained
I phone Janet from the car, relay the news. She's with me, doesn't see why Red should be making the decisions about punishment for Grunter.
“You want some lunch?”
“Want me to pick you up?”
“Yeah. Sick of sitting here.”
At Seachange all the tables are taken by triathletes eating pasta salads. Maria finds two stools, pushes them up to the counter.
Janet waves at a few people, balances the moon boot on the bottom rung of the stool, orders a burger.
"What happened to mung beans and water?”
“It's not like I'm in training.”
I change the topic to Grunter. “I reckon we could get some of our own justice, now we know where he works.”
“Red won't like it.”
“Bugger Red. What's she done? Told him he's a naughty boy.”
“Might have another look at that story. Now I know it was Smythe behind the crane.”
Good idea, something to keep her occupied. “You going back to work?”
“Yeah. Boss said they'll give me stories I can handle from the office.”
I guess I'll be driving her to work, and home again. “When do you get your new car?”
“This week. Not that I can drive it.”
Never liked that car, lawnmower on wheels.
“Great little car. This time I got green.”
“Lovely. Swam with Evan this morning.”
“Ask him if he knew about Marty?”
“Yeah. Says he and Clay were talking investment. Clay asked for a tour of the place, made some comments about Shark Central being a great place to get rid of someone. Evan didn't take him seriously.”
“You going to work for him?”
“Yeah. Got stuff for me Monday.”
My relationship with Janet is strained. I'm happy when lunch is over. “I'll take you home.”
She gives me Macca's address.
I knock up a pretty good proposal for Evan during the course of the afternoon, complete with appropriate PR jargon.
I even come up with some fairly original promotions for Ocean World - nothing like an internet cruise of oceanariums to generate some ideas.
Seems like Evan could give me a fair bit of work. Enough to keep me going, leave me time for PI work on the side. No more decoy jobs to cover the bills.
Hopefully enough to cover what I was doing with Daz, so I don't have to swallow my pride and go back to writing his newsletter.
Daz. I want to find out how much he knows about Clay's activities. Friday afternoon, he's either sitting in a bar or up to his neck in negotiations.
“Babe. Hear you've been swimming with sharks. And it's your fault Janet broke her leg.”
He's half pissed.
It's not broken, just a fracture, some little bone in her foot. Where are you?”
“Surf club. Come over. We're celebrating.”
Why not. I've got an hour until I have to meet Janet and Macca. I squeeze into skin-tight black jeans, the new red heels, a red top, do the spike thing with my hair. More than presentable.
Episode 142: The good stuff
Daz and his team are at the bar. The noise level is high.
“Need you to write me a press release, babe. Record month. 50 million in sales.” He claps Marco on the shoulder. “Marco got the last contract this arvo, took us over the 50.”
"Way to go Marco.”
He holds up a glass of champers, downs it.
Daz pours me a glass. It's good stuff, the bubbles hit my tongue, the roof of my mouth, fizz all the way down my throat.
“So what happened in Vanuatu?”
I wonder how much he knows. I can understand how he knows about Janet's foot, but he shouldn't know about Clay.
“Came across a shark, big one. Nudged me, decided he wasn't hungry.”
I have captured the attention of everyone in the vicinity.
Marco slurs. “Whadda ya mean nudged ya?”
I give him a nudge with my shoulder, he loses his balance, staggers, spills champers all over Daz. Shame.
“It's a behaviour pattern, like stalking their prey.”
“Where were you?”
“Ocean, off Vanuatu.”
Marco slurs. “Got married at Vanuatu, third time.”
He's not wearing a ring, wonder if he's still married, or remarried.
Daz pours me another glass. “Pity Janet got hurt. Was a good show for an age medal in the tri.”
I didn't know that.
“Heard from your mate Clay?”
“Nah, can't get him. Overseas. Got a business proposal for him.”
“He's into drugs. Stay away.”
“Got any proof?”
Don't want to tell him too much. “Not yet. What's the proposal?”
“None of your business.”
“Not Ocean World?”
He zips his lips with his fingers.
“Big deal. Big development.”
I take a wild guess. “Wouldn't be Green Hectares?”
Surprise flits through his eyes, but he doesn't give anything away.
My phone rings, it’s Janet, Macca's arrived.
“Gotta go.” I down the champers. “Enjoy your celebration.”
"Call me about the press release Monday.”
“If I get time.”
“Make time. Two hundred bucks.”
Bugger. “Give you a call.”
Macca's a geek. His apartment's full of electronic equipment - monitors, keyboards, rolls of cable, hardware, stacks of software.
He and Janet are huddled over a computer. Macca's playing the keyboard, Janet's watching in undisguised admiration.
“Hi there. How's it going?”
“Just started, shouldn't take a minute. Just access the memory.”
The smashed phone is sitting beside the computer. He hits more keys.
Janet's moon boot is balanced on a cushion.
I pull up a chair, sit. “Had a drink with Daz, reckon he might be trying to get Clay involved in Green Hectares.”
“Interesting. Won't believe what I found out today.”
“Was doing research, went back to the Green Hectares website, looking for a new angle.”
I cut her off. “Yeah. Go on.”
“Guess who the new architect is for Green Hectares?”
“Bio says Amanda has worked in design of top-end contemporary dwellings. After the tragic death of her husband she has decided to continue his work.”
“Good for Amanda.”
“Very nice photo, too.”
Episode 143: Whose phone is it?
Macca hits a few more keys, wants our attention. “Okay, girls. Here we go.”
He has a folder on the desktop which apparently belongs to the phone. “There are some stored photos. Do we want to open them?”
“Just three pics.”
He opens them.
They are the images that were showing on the laptop I found beside Thommo. The three photos of Thommo shooting Manny.
We sit looking at them.
Macca's the first to speak. “Whose phone is it?”
“Isn't this the case you're working on?”
Janet's wide eyed, computing the information. “Assuming this is the phone that took the photos, the owner was there when Manny got shot, knows exactly what happened. And the cops can trace the phone.”
"Big deal. We know who was there, Clay and Smart. So it's Clay's phone, or Smart's.”
Macca. “Photos could have been sent to this phone from another phone. Might be able to trace that through phone records.”
Janet. “If the cops trace the phone they could question the owner, crack him, get him to tell them everything.”
Detective Janet. I don't see the point, and I don't want to give the phone to the cops, and explain I've had it for nearly two weeks.
I argue my point. “It's got Clay's number in it, right, so it's probably Smart's phone. It's not like he's going to tell us anything we don't already know. Maybe it's Manny's phone, although he wouldn't have Clay's number. Maybe it's Thommo's phone.”
I'm onto something. “If they were clever they would've used Thommo's phone, he was the one who was framed. Maybe they always intended to get rid of Thommo.”
“Maybe.” But Janet doesn't sound convinced. “Who else could it belong to?”
The champagne's fizzing in my brain, clouding my thought processes.
Macca hands back the phone. “Think you should give it to the cops.”
“I agree.” Of course you do, Janet.
“Monday. Not like anyone's going to do anything over the weekend.” I've had enough. “Want to go for a drink?”
Janet looks at the boot.
“It's a broken foot, not liver disease.”
“Macca's not drinking, he's competing.”
A pointed dig. How could I forget.
“Hoping for a PB. Under three hours.”
“Good on you, Macca.”
"You ready for the swim?”
“Yeah. Done a bit of swimming lately.” It's a reference to the 10ks in Vanuatu. Janet doesn't take it.
“Greg's pumped.” Macca and Greg are mates.
I should call Greg. “Thought his shoulder might be better.”
“Nah. Buggered. He’s counting on you.”
Great. I get up, prepare to leave. “Thanks for your help, Macca. You staying, Janet, or you want a lift home?”
She looks expectantly at Macca. “We could get takeaway and a video?”
“I've been wanting to see Resident Evil: Afterlife.”
You hate horror movies.
“Have a good night. Talk to you tomorrow, Janet.”
Episode 144: The gay question
It's Friday night. Friday night is for going out, getting plastered. I'm sitting at home, getting bored.
I shove Charlie's Angels into the DVD player. I could call Hank.
I send him an SMS: Does my personal safety need monitoring?
Reply: Only if u r naked
And my reply: I could b
His reply: Make sure u r
I give the Angels a wink. “Learnt everything I know from you girls.”
A sexy camisole and matching knickers is the next best thing to naked. I hear his car pull up, wander out onto the balcony.
“You going to take the stairs?”
“Safer. Don't want some woman to blast me with pepper spray.”
He's carrying a six-pack, wearing the other one.
I peel up his t-shirt, slide my hand over his stomach.
“Isn’t this when Red calls?”
“Not likely. Red's not talking to me.”
“Hmmm… Dusty's in Red's bad books. Not good.”
“She's not easy to bring around.”
“Not telling me anything.”
“So what is it with you and Red anyway?” I look him in the eye.
“Let's not talk about Red.”
“Ok.” Although I am determined to get to the bottom of the Hank and Red story.
He has the six-pack in one hand, my butt in the other. “Food could wait.”
The beer goes into the fridge. We go into the bedroom.
The mobile rings, I ignore it.
The home phone rings, Janet leaves a message. “I'm never taking your advice again Dusty.” Loud, shreeking. “Macca just told me he's gay. Said he thought I knew, thought we were good friends. It was soooo embarrassing.”
Daz and I roll over each other, laughing.
“Janet's been in love with him for about a year.” I'm almost hysterical.
He plays along. “The gay question, good idea to get it out of the way early.”
I splutter. “You gay, Hank?”
“I'm a lesbian.”
“That's the worst line.”
“Let me show you.”
And he does…
I phone Janet while Hank goes out for takeaway.
“I can't believe I took your advice.”
“Don't blame me. You're a big girl. It's not the end of the world, Janet.”
“You weren't there. I made a pass at him.”
“What did you say?”
“I didn't say anything.”
There's a silence.
“You didn't go the grope?”
“It wasn't like that.”
I stifle a laugh. “What did you do?”
“Put my hand on his thigh, he jumped off the couch.”
I laugh. “You have to see the funny side.”
“It wasn't funny. When he settled down, he told me the whole story. How he knew he was gay when he was a kid, how he got bullied at school.”
“Gay, a geek with red hair and freckles. Must have been hell.”
“He was almost crying. Said he thought I knew him.”
“You're not a mind reader. Has he got a boyfriend?”
“No. He's shy.”
“Put it down to experience, Janet.”
“What? Like swimming 10 ks in the ocean with sharks? Breaking a bone in my foot? Getting run off the road?”
Episode 145: What’s the secret?
I decide to be nice to Janet. “Would you like to watch the cycling tomorrow afternoon? I'll come get you. Drop you off close to the action, meet up with you.”
“Call you tomorrow.”
Hank returns with curry and a DVD, Some action flick. “How's Janet?”
"Not good. She went the grope.”
“Somehow it's all my fault.”
“Red says it's always your fault.”
We get bowls, beers, settle on the couch.
"What is it with Red? What did I do wrong? Okay, maybe I should have told her about the emails to Randy, and what I thought about the drugs.”
“Would have been sensible.”
“I don't get why she's so pissed off. We're both okay.”
“But you shouldn't be. Clay and Randy think you're dead, either at the bottom of the ocean, or in the stomach of a tiger shark, which you nearly were.
“You shouldn't have made it. Red's pissed because you're her responsibility. She's your superior. You're supposed to do what she says. She's supposed to be in control.”
I can see where he's at. “You know her pretty well.”
“We worked together, were a team.”
“Who was the boss?”
“We were equal. But she was older than me, more experienced. She took responsibility.”
“In what way?”
“When things went wrong she took the blame for it. Most of the time.”
“But you stood up for her too. That's what she always says. Reckons she owes you.”
“We owe each other.”
I push it a little bit further.
“Get the feeling it's more than that. What's the big secret?”
“Wouldn't be a secret if I told you.”
He's shovels green curry into his mouth. Picks up the remote, points it at the tv.
“I heard that if it got out, you and Red would be in big trouble.”
No response. Conversation over.
Don't push it, Dusty. Another time. I'm sure if I can find out the secret it may come in handy one day.
As the movie plays I think about the phone, the photos of Thommo, and Manny.
Should tell Hank about it. Slip it into the conversation, nonchalant.
Something like: “By the way, Hank. I picked up this phone on Manny's boat. Might be worth a look. Turns out it's got those pictures on it, you know, the ones that were on the laptop I found beside Thommo. Guess it belongs to someone who was there, knows exactly what happened.”
Problem is, his first question would be: “When did you find it?”
To which I would have to respond: “A week and a half ago.”
His next comment would probably be something like: “And it didn't occur to you that it might be important to the case until now?”
To which I would have to respond: “No.”
So I don't say anything. I hope the investigation will come to a close and I'll never have to mention it.
Next week: Janet’s two-page spread, that’s gotta make some people upset.
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