Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 146-150

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 146

Janet's two-page spread

I FIGURE the forgotten phone is a minor flaw in an otherwise copybook operation.

Once the boat arrives, and the cops intercept it and find the drugs, it won't matter. It'll be done and dusted, and everyone will be congratulating Dusty Dexter, private investigator, for cracking wide open a major international drug smuggling operation.

The way I see it, everything should come to a close on Monday.

There's another thing. I know Red would hit the roof and I don't need to upset her any more than I already have. I'm definitely going to keep the phone to myself.

Hank got up early and stabilised the outdoor table - the one that collapsed on us a few nights ago - then went to the bakery. He came back with a bag full of warm croissants, brioche, apricot Danish, sultana snails. Since he left, I've been sitting on the balcony drinking tea and eating, watching the whitecaps on the ocean and the triathletes taking a final spin - heads down, legs pumping.

Wish I hadn't offered to take Janet to the cycling, hope she'll be happy with a seat in a bar near the finish line.

I force myself into action - need to proof the proposal for Evan.

Beside my laptop is the newspaper Hank bought. I open it, happy for another diversion.

The story Janet wrote on Cash and Smythe is spread across pages 10 and 11.

It details Manny's "Week of lunches".

In a fact box are photos of the councillors who met with Manny, and the day of the lunch appointment. There are boxes with red crosses which indicate each councillor's vote on Green Hectacres before the lunch, all against, and the vote after the lunch, all in favour.

The councillors won't be happy.

Neither will Smythe. There's a photo of him and quotes he made when he promoted the development in council, "Wonderful development for the region... benefits for tourism... creation of hundreds of jobs..."

The copy indicates that the councillors changed their votes on the project following their lunch with Manny, the project's architect, and right hand man to developer Max Cash.

Each councillor is asked why he changed his vote. Each has responded along the lines that, following their appointment with Manny, they realised the value of the development to the community.

It's not difficult to read between the lines.

In a side story Max Cash is quoted extolling the virtues of the design, and its benefits to the Sunshine Coast as a sophisticated contemporary resort development which will help the range come of age as an international tourist destination.

An artist's drawing shows acres of golf course, stylish homes and townhouses, a club house, tennis courts.

A side story features extracts from previous stories covering protests by residents, clearly indicating not everyone is happy about the project.

At the bottom is a pointer to follow-up stories to come.

Well done, Janet.

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty's website www.dustydexterpi.com .

Tomorrow: An email and a threat, and even Dusty's spooked.

Episode 147

Dusty's spooked

UNDER normal circumstances Janet would have been on the phone at 6am asking me if I'd read her double-page expose of Max Cash, Smythe and the councillors. She's obviously still pissed at me.

I pick up the phone.

"Great story, Janet. Big spread."

"Yeah. More to come too. Been working on it this morning. Found some interesting stuff."

"Like what?"

"Tell you this arvo."

"When did you decide to go ahead with it?"

"After you saw Thug 2 I talked to Red, and Hank. Hank called Cash and Smythe, told them to pull their heads in."

"Great." And all this without any mention of it to me. I am in the bad books.

"What time do you want me to pick you up?"

"About 2. Starts at 3. Want to wish some people good luck."

"See you then."

Back out on the balcony I open the laptop. It's a warm morning. I'd rather put on a bikini, lie in the autumn sun.

First check the emails, another diversion.

I don't believe it, there's an email from Captain Randy. I open it.

Clay's using his address:

Dusty, We hear you and Janet are alive and well. What a surprise. You have my admiration. As I said, when we had our chat on the boat, in another life I would give you a job. Don't think that because Thommo and Marty are out of the way, and Smart is under surveillance, that you are safe. I imagine you have told the police about our little run-in, and about the shipment on its way. We will find ways around this. You have also disrupted my business plans, another thing which does not make me happy. Randy and I will be at sea for a while, I am sure you understand why, but I am looking forward to meeting up with you again in the future. In the meantime I have arranged a little surprise for you both. Clay.

I don't like the tone. What little surprise? And he seems to know everything.

I sit, think. Who has Clay been in contact with? Smart. He knows we're alive, probably knows we've talked to the police.

I'm glad Smart's under surveillance. The shipment's on its way, what are they going to do with the drugs?

He's got me spooked. I print the email, close the laptop. Phone Red.

"It's Saturday, don't give me any 'I'm studying, got some questions for you' crap."

"I just got an email from Clay."

"What's it say?"

I read it to her.

"Forward it to Stern. He can have a look at it. They can't do much out in the middle of the ocean. And the drugs aren't due 'til Monday, earliest. You looking after Janet?"

"Taking her to the cycling this afternoon."


"Didn't tell me you spoke to her about Thug 2 and that story."

"None of your business. Her story."

She hangs up.

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty's website www.dustydexterpi.com.

Tomorrow: Janet's milking the sympathy vote from the other triathletes.

Episode 148

The injured athlete

JANET has pulled leggings over the swollen ankle. With them she is wearing her standard sports top, a Nike cap, and the moon boot.

She looks every bit the injured athlete. I take her as far as I can in the car, drop her off, take the car home. I'm back with her in under ten minutes.

She's surrounded by cyclists, the centre of attention, has the boot propped on a fence. She demonstrates the clips, velcro, takes it off to show the swelling, bruising underneath. "If I'd been able to get medical attention immediately, it wouldn't be so bad."

"Wore one of those after I did my Achilles in the Noosa tri. Took six months to get back into training."

"Snapped my Achilles in the Gatorade tri at Raby Bay, got off the bike to do the run, bloody thing went snap. Hurt like hell."

"Sewed my Achilles back together after Grand Prix at South Bank. Like new, now."

Sporting injuries. They'll be at it for ages.

I wave at her, see Macca, wander over. "Hi Macca. Thanks for checking out the phone."

"You gunna take it to the cops?"

"Yeah. Monday."

He's sheepish. Probably realises Janet would have told me about last night's coming out.

"Good luck with the race."


I'm thinking that a gay man would be in heaven surrounded by men in skin-tight shorts. I decide to pass on my observation. "More lycra shorts and tight butts here than at Mardi Gras."

I give him a wink to let him know I'm cool with his sexual orientation.

He blushes, busies himself with the bike.

Janet's cycling mates leave her to prepare for the race. Maybe now we can find a bar, a seat near the window, become spectators.

She props herself on the crutches. "Let's go check out the gear, boys said there are some great specials."

Dozens of marquees full of lycra bike shorts with padded crotches. Just what I need. I consider retiring to a bar on my own, think of Red. "Sure."

She hobbles along beside me, making good ground even with the crutches.

We wander from stand to stand. Janet buys matching cycle shorts and tops in hi-tech fabrics, several pairs. Hands me the plastic bags to carry. We stop repeatedly for in-depth discussions about ankle injuries with friends who are psyched up for the triathlon.

At a swimsuit stand she tries to coerce me into buying a training suit. I'd prefer a string bikini, but there's none in sight. She grabs four pairs of goggles at a bargain price. Great, know who to go to when I need a new ones.

At another stand she picks up a set of hand weights. According to the spiel they have a vinyl covering over the cast iron which makes them comfortable to hold, and prevents scratching table tops, essential.

"Aren't they cute?"

Cute is not a word I associate with weights. "I'm not carrying them."

She decides on the 2.5 kilo models, bright blue. She hands over the credit card, the assistant hands me the weights.

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty's website www.dustydexterpi.com.

Tomorrow: Janet, the investigative reporter, since when.

Episode 149

Cyclists zoom past

JANET and I make it to the last marquee, surrounded by triathlon gear. I can taste a cold beer. She spies a physiotherapist flogging sports injury rehabilitation, makes a beeline for him.

I try not to listen as they discuss exercise programs, stretching, strengthening. I look out over the ocean, wonder where the boat loaded with drugs is, hope Hank and his mates are searching for it.

Janet's finished. She hands me a business card that I drop into one of the bags.

The bars and coffee shops along the beachfront are packed. Janet insists we wait on the street for the start of the race, shoulders her way to through bodies to the barricade, then screams encouragement when anyone she knows rides past.

She balances on one crutch, waves the other in the air. I don't know how she can make out one psychedelic blur from another, maybe she can't.

The circuit is a loop along the Esplanade, riders zoom past at high speed, then again just a few minutes later. It's making my head spin.

"I'm going to Seachange. See you there."

"Sure." Her eyes don't leave the bikes. She yells. "Go hard, Macca."

Red and Maria are drinking coffee, eating cake.

"Where's Janet?"

Always Janet. "Down the street, shouting encouragement. She's fine."

I dump the bags on the floor with a clunk. "Took her shopping."

I order a Blond from a new waiter, Maori tattoo, round biceps.

"You drink too much."

Red's on my case. I can't do anything right. "It's hot. I just spent two hours looking after Janet, wandering up and down the street. I need a beer."

Maria speaks. "Red told me about Clay's email."

I suppose that means she's showing some concern. "Not too worried. All be over Monday, once they pick up the boat."

Red. "If they pick up the boat."

I'm sick of the negativity, drink.

When Janet arrives she's sweating at the exertion of watching the race.

"Who won."

"Bloke from Sydney. Top athlete. Macca did well, so did Roscoe."

I order her a beer before she has a chance to go for coffee.

"See Janet's spread today? Two pages." This is Dusty being nice.

Maria, as always, is concerned."You sure they won't threaten you again? Could be worse next time."

Red's turn. "I talked to Stern, he talked to Cash and Smythe, said if anything else happens we'll be onto them. He also had a word with Grunter."

"Besides," Janet says, "I only wrote the facts."

Janet's smug in her stance against big business. This week she's a poster girl for investigative journalism, just a few days ago she was a snivelling wreck, hiding out in Vanuatu.

Red puts cake in her mouth, points her fork at me. "You should take note of Janet's approach. She finds out all the facts, covers all the bases, doesn't do anything stupid. Ends up with a balanced, well-presented story. Do things properly, you get a result."

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty's website www.dustydexterpi.com

Tomorrow: Ruining reputations, it's a risky business.

Episode 150

Janet's ruining reputations

RED is happy she's made her point.

So now I'm supposed to learn from Janet. The same Janet who starts crying whenever anything a little bit nasty happens. But I don't say anything, if it's be nice to Janet week, so be it.

She mentioned new stuff for the next story, I ask her about it.

She takes a slug of her beer, puts the stubbie back on the coaster.

"I looked into the land holdings where Green Hectares will be built. Found some very interesting information."

She pauses for effect. "It just so happens that Smythe, and extended family members, and quite a few councillors, own most of the land that will be sold to the developers."

Red and Maria lean forward, interested.

"A fair portion of the land has been in Smythe's family for years, no doubt he persuaded Cash to build the development where he stood to gain the most from it.

"A number of other blocks changed hands about twelve months ago. They were bought by the Smythe family, and other councillors, who obviously had knowledge of the project before it was officially before council.

"The people they bought the land from didn't know there was a huge development planned, so they sold the land at much lower prices than Smythe and his lot will get now that the development has the go ahead from council."

Red. "Good work."

Maria. "That's going to be big when it gets out."

Me. "Ruin a few reputations."

Janet continues. "They're making a profit from knowledge they gained as councillors, taking advantage of the public who voted for them. Should cause a real stink, and they deserve every bit of it." She sits back, satisfied, then adds. "The voting public deserve to know. They should be exposed."

I'm impressed, despite myself. Don't want to show it. "Nothing like trial by media. When's the story going?"

"Mid week. Got more research to do, people to talk to."

Red pokes me in the arm. Mouths "research".

Janet's self-righteous. "We're expecting a public outcry. People don't want the range destroyed. Could hold up the development, maybe won't even go ahead."

Since when did Janet care so much about the range. It occurs to me there are more people who won't be happy. Daz, and Clay. If it was Green Hectares they were talking about for his investment money.

Red changes the conversation. "Did you tell her about Clay's threat?"

"It's probably nothing." I pull the email out of my handbag, hand it to Janet. "I got an email from Clay. He knows we're alive. Said he had a surprise for us. That's all."

She reads. "Doesn't sound like a nice surprise."

"What can he do?" I say it with more confidence than I feel. "He's on a boat somewhere a long way away, and Smart's under surveillance. Hank and the cops will find the drugs. Monday, it'll be over."

Red. "If only it was that simple."

Are you a fan? Check out Dusty's blog, www.dustydexterpi.com .

Monday: A nasty surprise…

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