Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 91-95

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 91: What would the Angels do?

Local knowledge, that’s what I need.

I ask Peter if he knows My Third Wife.

He shrugs. "Lots of boats in the harbour, come and go."

Is he being evasive? "Don’t know Captain Randy?"

"No. No Captain Randy. We have many tourists. Vila is a good harbour. Many visitors sail into the harbour."

I want to see Captain Randy in his natural habitat before I introduce myself. "Is there a bar for tourists, foreigners?"

"On the waterfront, towards the harbour entrance." He pauses. "If you want to sail, I introduce you to my brother, he has a sail boat."

Of course, Peter wants to keep it in the family.

The wind’s stronger as we sail back into the harbour. I listen to Janet flirt, try to come up with a plan but the rocking of the boat, the sun, and general laziness take over. I snooze, wake as we sail into the harbour.

What would the Angels do?

I need to find the boat, then the captain. I also want to talk to some people who know him. I’m going to board the boat when he’s not around see if there are any obvious signs of drugs. If that doesn’t work we’ll introduce ourselves, ask him to take us for a sail.

We dock. I spy kayaks on the beach opposite, perfect cover. We will paddle the harbour like tourists out for a bit of fun, and look for the boat.

"Janet. Feel like going for a paddle later? Good exercise, haven’t done much today."


"Check out the harbour, look for Captain Randy’s boat."

She spends some time saying goodbye to Peter, holding hands, giggling. Why can’t she do this with Macca?

I’m hungry, steer Janet towards a cafe. In a refrigerated counter cakes, deserts and chocolates are lined up. I settle for a tuna salad roll, Janet approves, add a piece of mud cake, to piss her off.

We sit at a table on the footpath. I watch people pass as Janet plays with her camera. A cruise ship is anchored in the harbour and the streets are full of tourists with bum bags on fat guts.

Janet goes through photos, deletes some, shows me the rest. Photos of Peter husking the coconut, Peter doing his tourist guide thing, Peter against the rigging before we boarded.

"Did you get his number?"

"Gave me a business card. He’s taking a sunset cruise tonight. We’re meeting afterwards."

"I don’t get you, Janet. You get on a plane for two hours, land on a tropical island, and turn into a sex goddess.

You’ve arranged a date before lunch on the first day. At home, you’ve been waiting for Macca to ask you out for a year. Nothing."

"This is different."


"It’s a holiday. The rules change."

"Didn’t know there were rules."

"Just because you don’t have rules. Most people have rules. You, on the other hand, have a string of failed relationships."

Cutting. But, I can be more cutting. "At least I have relationships. You have triathlons."


Episode 92: Friends with benefits

Janet chews something green.

"When we get back, after the triathlon, you should ask Macca out, since he’s clearly not going to ask you out."

She looks up from the green stuff. "If I ask him, he’ll think I want a relationship."

"You do want a relationship."

"But I don’t want him to think I do."

I decide to leave that. Despite the total lack of logic I know what she’s on about. I try another approach. "What about friends with benefits?"

"Macca would never go for friends with benefits. He’s a nice man."

"He’s a man. Personally, I like the idea." I’m warming to the subject - this is my latest theory. "Next time, that’s what I’m going for, friends with benefits. No moving in together. No ’partners’." I use my fingers to make inverted commas.

Janet’s on the attack. "Hank know that?"

"I reckon Hank’s a friends-with-benefits man. He wants to go surfing, have fun with his mates." I think about his offer to fix the balcony. Does that come under friends with benefits? No.

"You should back off Hank, it’s not worth it. Red’ll find out. You know how she is about Hank."

"She doesn’t want to have sex with him."

"She thinks of him like a brother, protects him."

"And he needs to be protected from me? That what you’re saying?" There’s an edge to my voice.

"No. It would be messy, that’s all."

She’s backing off. No she’s not. "You don’t care about Hank, you just want him because you know Red won’t like it."

I know there’s a grain of truth in that. Strike back. "At least I can get him if I want to." It’s a pointed reference to her twelve-month drought. "Maybe I should go for someone else, maybe Macca?"

She glares at me. "You do, and I’ll tell Red about Hank."

Nasty. I’m impressed. "You really do like Macca."

She blushes. "Shut up."

Now I’m going for the jugular. "So, Peter, I suppose that’s different? Let’s see... you’re not looking for a lasting relationship, you’re waiting for Macca, and you don’t know Peter, so he’s not a friend. So what’s he then? Straight up benefits with no strings attached?"

I raise one eyebrow, sip the coffee.

"No. It’s a holiday romance."

I splutter coffee. "Romance. Like the Egyptian was a romance?" Now I’m being a bitch, and enjoying it. "So calling a quick shag a holiday romance makes it different?"

"Now you’re being crude. Just because you don’t believe in love at first sight doesn’t mean it can’t happen."

"So now you love him." I put one hand on my heart. "Should lay off the romantic comedies, Janet. Just because Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts can find true love, doesn’t mean you can."

I’m over the conversation, and finished the cake. And the coffee’s cold. "Let’s go get those kayaks."


Episode 93: Janet, no sense of adventure

Janet and I hop on a big tinny for the ride across the harbour. As we motor off I look back towards the bank, see Pat making her way down the stairs to the pontoon, phone to her ear.

The kayaks are stranded on the sand.

"They’re probably only for people staying at the resort." Janet, always plays by the rules.

"How do they know we’re not staying here? If they ask we’ll tell them we’re staying in one of those huts."

We cover ourselves in a layer of 30+, Janet puts the backpack into a bright orange two-seater, we grab paddles, walk knee-deep into the water. Janet jumps in, takes the front, wants to be the captain.

It’s fun, we get a bit of a rhythm going, splash each other a couple of times. Friends again.

Sail boats are moored in rows at pylons, others at anchor.

I explain our mission. "We’re looking for My Third Wife, it’s white." Bugger, most of them are white, or partly white.

"We need to get a system, up one side, down the other. Don’t want him to see us. Might recognise us."

"How’s he going to recognise us? Doesn’t know what we look like."

Minor tactical error, better explain. "Actually, he does. I sent him photos, ones at Evan’s cocktail party."


"So he’d ask us to go sailing with him."

She processes this without comment.

We search for an hour, check out most of the boats, Janet’s getting sick of it.

"You sure that’s what it’s called?"

"Yeah. Maybe he’s sailing."

Janet points 500 metres further into the harbour. "Maybe it’s up there."

There are two boats, on their own. If one of them’s My Third Wife, and he’s on board, there’s a fair chance he’ll see us as we paddle over.

"You got binoculars in there?" I gesture at the backpack.

"Back in the room. Got a zoom on the camera."

"How good is it?"

"Need to get closer."

We paddle to within 100 metres of the boats.

Janet takes out the camera. Zooms. "Can’t see anyone on board."

"See the name?"

"Too far away."

We paddle closer, still no sign of life, still can’t see the name.

"Bugger, we’ll have to go right up."

We approach the boats, moored side by side, one of them’s Captain Randy’s. It’s about twenty metres long, blue and white hull, nicely appointed. We paddle around it, no sign of life. The other boat’s smaller, not as new, more like Thommo’s.

I’m considering nudging the kayak into the back, hopping on board. "Reckon there’s no one home."

Janet agrees. "Pretty quiet."

I call out. "Hello." No answer. Again, louder.


I inform her of my plan. "Let’s go around the back, hook up, go for a look."

"You crazy? It’s broad daylight, someone’s bound to see us."

"No sense of adventure, Janet."


Episode 94: Conscious of security

"No sense of adventure! No death wish." Janet’s indignant. "You reckon the guy’s smuggling drugs. Don’t think he’s just going to have the boats sitting out here, do you? Waiting for you to have a look? Someone’s gotta be keeping watch."

She’s right. A motor I heard in the background is getting louder. A tinny skims across the water from the mainland, heads straight for us. The bloke on the tiller waves his free arm.

"Time to get out of here."

"Shit." Janet points the kayak back towards the island, paddles fast.

"Don’t panic, we don’t want to look suspicious." I turn around, look back. The tinny charges past My Third Wife, comes around us in an arc and pulls up as we rock in its wake. The driver doesn’t look like Captain Randy. He’s angry.

"Let me handle this."

"Private property, those boats."

"Sorry, tourists, just having a paddle. Nice boats." I give him by biggest smile, pull back my shoulders and shove out my assets. "Wouldn’t mind a sail while we’re here? Do day trips?"

He has skin that’s spent most of its life in the sun. "Boat belongs to the boss." An American accent.

"He do day trips?"

"Some. Have to talk to him, I just keep watch."

"People try to get on boats?"

"Boss is very conscious of security."

Not surprising, considering the cargo.

Janet takes out her camera. Points it at the island, takes a few pics, back at the mainland, at the boats. I keep him talking as she gets pictures.

"What’s your boss’s name?"

"Captain Randy."

"Which boat’s his?"

"You ask a lotta questions."

"Curious nature."

"Big one."

"Who owns the smaller one?"

"Friend of Randy’s, Joey. Leaving in a couple days."

"Sailing around the islands?"

"Big trip. Down your way. Figured you for Aussies."

Einstein. "Where you headed?"


Janet starts to speak, I poke her in the back, don’t want him to know where we’re from.

"Two hour plane flight. Bet it takes a bit longer by boat."

"Week, if the weather’s right. Forecast’s good."

Janet’s still taking photos.

"Have a good sail."

"Will do. Feel like a drink, we’re celebrating tomorrow night, before we leave. Harbour Inn."

"Might just do that. Randy be there?"

"Reckon so."

Janet points the camera at him. "Mind if I take your picture?"

"Go right ahead." He smiles, waves. Then he guns the motor, roars back to shore.

"Good going, Janet."

She shows me the photo. Excellent, we have been here less than 24 hours and we already have a photo of a drug courier.

"You get the boats?"

"Yeah. Why didn’t you want him to know we’re from Mooloolaba?"

"In case he told Captain Randy. Don’t want to take any risks." Janet would like that. "Don’t want him asking questions about us, might figure out who we are, that we know something about his business."

She nods.

"We’re undercover. Two Aussie tourists on holiday."


Episode 95: Tourists on holiday

Janet stows the camera, picks up her paddle, the tinny roars back to the shore. "We gunna paddle around this island?"

"Rather lie around the pool."

"You’re so lazy."

"We’re going to swim around the bloody thing tomorrow, isn’t that enough?"

She gives in.

As we make our way towards the beach Janet puts down her paddle, points up at a rocky outcrop on the island.

"Isn’t that Pat?"

"Yeah. Think so."

"She’s looking at us. I’ve seen her about five times today. She’s following us."

"Don’t be paranoid, Janet. She’s on holidays, having a walk."

"I don’t like her."

"Bit rough, that’s all."

We paddle back to the beach, abandon the kayaks.

"Wonder if they leave these things out at night?"


"Want to have a look on those boats."

"No way. Probably shoot us."

Janet’s still traumatised by the Thugs.

"They sail in a couple of days. That means the drugs are either on the boat, or soon to be. I’ll check things out with the binoculars from the balcony tonight, come up with a plan."

"Come up with as many plans as you like, I’m not going back to those boats." Janet grabs the backpack, huffs off towards the jetty.

I head for the activities desk. "Great fun those kayaks. Do you leave them out? Be nice to go for a paddle after dinner."

"Sorry. All equipment locked up after dark."

Bugger. Have to swim out.

I run up behind Janet, put my arm around her shoulder. "How about a Tusker on a banana lounge by the pool?"

We walk back along the harbour, detour through markets, tables laid with tourist trinkets, bracelets, necklaces, sarongs, soap, candles, wood sculptures. Janet buys presents.

Back at the Sebel I rinse off the salt and sand in the pool, float, then retire to a lounge.

Janet drinks a Tusker, reads the local paper.

"Not a bad little rag. Not a bad place to work."

Yeah right. "You’d be bored in a week, besides, no triathlons here."

I think about tonight’s mission at the bar, doze. "I reckon it’s time to fill the spa, watch the sun set with a glass of that complimentary champers."

We pop the cork, grab some duty free Lindt chocolate, crank up the jets, and slide into the spa. As the sun sinks the sky turns vibrant red and gold, colour catches on small clouds. The harbour’s inky.

When the bottle’s empty we head to the restaurant for huge steaks, locally grown, thick and juicy.

Janet’s keen to get back to Peter, to his boat. I want to check out Randy’s and Joey’s boats from the balcony, before I go to the bar, find out what I can about Randy.

I promised Red a daily update, but I’m not sure what to tell her. She doesn’t know about Captain Randy. Maybe I should just tell her I’ve found the boat belonging to Goldshield’s business partner, and we hope to find him, or people who know him. That should do it.

Nest week: Dusty checks out the boats with binoculars, comes up with a plan to get onboard.

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