Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 161-164
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 161: Two sharks circle
I can't see far into the water. In part because of the wind from the chopper, and I lost my goggles when I went over the side of the boat. Figure it's a good thing.
I try not to think of the one fact I know about sharks - they can sense a drop of blood in a volume of water as big as a swimming pool, or something like that.
The chopper door opens and someone hurtles down towards me on a rope. He waves. I wave back. In seconds he's above me, then in front of me in the water. He clips me onto him, chest to chest, signals, and we get hauled up and out of the water, swing in the air.
It's the best feeling.
Blood runs down my leg into the water. I don't care. As I swing, I smile like an idiot at the bloke hanging onto me.
Then I look over to the tinny. In an attempt to get away from the Water Police they slide off the back of a wave, the tinny lurches onto its side, sinks in seconds.
I watch to see if Smart and the driver surface, but I don't see any sign of them. The police boat closes in, circles where the tinny went down.
We're almost at the helicopter. They haul me in, start patching me up. The helicopter banks and my rescuer attracts my attention, points down into the water. Just outside the range of the chopper's down draft, right about where he plucked me from the current, two large sharks circle.
Half an hour later I'm wearing a hospital gown over my togs, sitting on a hospital bed. A young doctor puts half a dozen stitches into the fleshy bit of my hip, it's just a surface wound, applies a waterproof dressing.
I emerge to find Hank, Red and Janet waiting for me.
Hank. "You okay?"
Red. "What the hell happened out there?"
Janet hands me my backpack.
I remove the gown, pull on the shorts and tank top. "I'm fine thanks. Got shot in the hip," I point to the bandage.
"Lost a bit of blood."
I look at Red. "What happened out there was I found out where the drugs are, and a few other things too."
Hank takes control. "I'll take you back to the station. We'll have to get a statement."
Red. "Thank God Janet got to a mobile phone, called me. You could have been killed."
"I know. But I wasn't going to just let him get away, was I?"
We pile into Hank's car. Because of the moon boot Janet has to get in the front, which means I'm sitting beside Red.
She has a grumpy look on her face, still won't give me an inch. "So you saw Smart at the start line of the swim and followed him. Then what?"
I can see I'm in for an informal interview on the way to the cop house. Might as well tell them.
Episode 162: Dusty the TV star
I tell them how Smart pointed the gun at me, threatened to take me hostage.
I explain the drugs are now on My Third Wife, with Clay and Randy, headed for Cairns. Then I tell them what Smart said about Amanda paying them to shoot Manny.
"Bullshit." That's Red.
"You kiddin' me?" Hank.
My mobile rings. "Dusty Dexter?"
"Yes, it's Dusty Dexter."
"Butch Kennedy, reporter for Channel 7. Just heard about the rescue, want to interview you for the news."
"Sure." More fun that making a statement to police.
"I'm at the tri."
"Call you when I get there."
He hangs up.
"Hank, can we do the statement this arvo? That was the TV. Want to interview me."
"Yeah. I'll brief everyone. Contact Cairns, get them to keep an eye out for the boat."
Greg. "Hey, Janet. Did someone tell Greg?"
"Yeah. Wasn't happy."
"What was I supposed to do?"
Butch is a sports reporter. He and his cameraman have been covering the tri. We meet near the showers.
"Hi, Dusty. Sorry, don't know much of the story. Boss said you got rescued over near Old Woman Island?"
I give him a rundown. Show him the plaster covering the wound from the bullet.
The camera man nods. "Reckon we get her in the water, zoom in on her hip. Lose the shorts and singlet, just in the togs. Got goggles, cap?"
"No. Lost them."
Janet's all action. "I'll go get some." Heads off on her crutches to the recovery tent.
Butch asks me more questions, gets the story right, then we discuss what he will ask me in front of the camera, what I will say.
I am to walk out of the water towards the camera man. Butch will be waiting for me.
Hanks hovers, reminds me not to give away any information pertinent to the case.
This is more like it. I am Dusty Dexter, private investigator, I have unravelled a baffling murder mystery and uncovered a drug ring.
Janet returns with a cap, goggles, and Greg.
"Sorry, Greg." I give him a brief rundown.
"You'll do anything to get out of a triathlon." At least he's got a sense of humour.
The cameraman explains what he wants. I am to wade into the water, wet my hair. He wants it to look as if I am just stepping out of the water.
We go through it a few times. Me walking out of the water, cap and goggles in hand.
I wade back into the water, knee deep, dunk myself, then rise from the small shore break, water coursing down my hair, shoulders, over my body.
I walk, goggles and cap swinging in my hand up the beach. A crowd has gathered, people gawk, wonder what's going on.
I am a TV star. The Angels would be proud.
I spend the afternoon giving my statement to the cops. My rescue and gunshot wound tip the triathlon off the top spot on the news.
Episode 163: A wake for Bernice
Janet and I are having a wake for Bernice. Her ashes are in a sealed plastic bag inside a timber box along with tissue paper and pot pourri.
A plaque reads: Bernice, beloved Burmese of Janet Jones. 20/01/2003 to 30/3/2008.
Beside it, in a small basket, is a kitten with blue eyes and a tiny antenna of a tail that sticks straight out from her bum. She sleeps.
I organised Bernice's cremation for Janet. It was my way of saying sorry, and she was happy for me to take control.
I even wrote the words for the plaque, though I had to ask Janet Bernice's birth date.
Once the boxes had been collected, and the remains returned, I took Janet to the RSPCA. She didn't want to go, said it was too soon, but I insisted. As anticipated, she fell in love, and here we are.
We have drunk a six-pack of Blonds and a bottle of chardonnay while sitting on my balcony watching the lights come on. I remember the vodka, grab it from the freezer and pour two shot glasses. "I would like to make a toast."
We hold up our glasses.
"To Bernice. The best Burmese I ever knew."
My mobile rings, it's Hank. "Hank, baby."
"A little. Bernice got cremated, we're giving her a send-off."
"Right. Got some good news and some bad news. Bad news on the boat."
Boat? Randy's boat. "What happened?"
"They found it this afternoon. Off the Whitsundays. Got a mayday call from an old shiela called Pat, said she'd been abandoned. No drugs, no Randy or Clay."
"Where'd they go?"
"According to Pat they disappeared last night. When she woke up this morning they were gone. Didn't hear anything. We're keeping an eye out for them. Probably on another boat, somewhere out at sea."
"Pat was in on it with them. She can tell you where they went for sure."
"Reckons she doesn't know a thing."
"What's the good news?"
"Think we've got Amanda. The phone records confirm what Smart said. Images from his phone sent to hers, then a message back to him from her. She reckons she lost her phone a couple of weeks back, but we should be able to go without it."
Lost her phone. The red metallic phone I found was Amanda's. Amanda kept the pictures of Manny being shot on her phone. Creepy. A real nasty piece of work.
"That's great, Hank."
"Leave you to it. Say goodbye to Bernice for me."
The phone. I struggle to put the pieces together, the alcohol's not helping.
I found the phone in the bedroom where Thommo was shot. Amanda had the pictures on her phone, could have downloaded them onto the laptop.
Maybe she knew Thommo was staying on the boat for a couple of days distributing the drugs. She had the radio on, heard a body had washed up on the beach. She could have gone to the boat, shot Thommo, left the laptop.
Episode 164.: Amanda, a killer?
Janet interrupts my train of thought.
"Did they find the boat?"
"Hang on a sec."
I phone Hank back.
"Hank. Maybe Amanda killed Thommo."
"Amanda paid Thommo to kill her husband, she's hardly gunna get her hands dirty killing Thommo."
"Listen. Amanda could have downloaded the photos from her phone onto the laptop, in case the body showed up, so she could prove Thommo killed Manny. She didn't want Thommo to talk, so she killed him."
"How did she know the body washed up?"
"Radio station would have picked it up on the scanner, would have gone to air in minutes."
"I thought Clay or Smart killed Thommo."
"All Clay said was that Thommo stuffed up the job. He stuffed it up because the body was found. Never told me who killed Thommo, neither did Smart."
I hang up.
Janet wants to know what's going on.
"Why do you think Amanda killed Thommo?"
"That phone I found, reckon it was Amanda's. Lost her phone a couple of weeks ago." "You didn't tell Hank about the phone?"
I ignore her. "She could have heard about the body on the beach, got to Thommo before we did. Smart said she was pissed off the body washed up."
"You have to give Hank that phone."
"Doesn't need it. They got Amanda. Phone records prove what Smart said. But Randy and Clay are still out at sea somewhere, with the drugs."
Janet's pushes herself to her feet, grabs the crutches off the table.
"I ever shee Clay again I'll sshoot him. Make sure there'sh bulletsh in the gun too."
She swings a crutch to emphasise her point, knocks Bernice onto the floor, the box opens, pot pourri falls onto the deck.
I pick up the plastic bag. "It's okay. Bernice is in there."
Janet picks up the box, scrapes pot pourri off the decking, puts it back on the table. Then she dumps the crutches and clomps off to the bathroom on the moon boot.
I pour another two shots of vodka.
The kitten wakes, crawls out of the basket. Two paws reach out, claws lock into Bernice's plastic bag, it splits and ash leaks onto the table top. I gently prise it from her grip, put it back into the box then brush ash off the table.
The mobile rings, I ignore it. The cordless rings, I let it go to message. It's Red.
"Dusty. I hope you're looking after Janet. And don't think because you got a result, of sorts, on Amanda you don't have to do the study. No more investigations until, as your supervisor, I'm convinced you're doing the work. I've got another decoy job for you. Wednesday night. Let's just see if we can keep the target alive for a few days after you meet him."
"Hey, Janet. Red just gave me another job."
Janet offers a toast.
"To Dusty Dexter. The coasht'sh besht private inveshtigator."
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