Dusty Dexter PI: episodes 96-100

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 96: Dusty gets a warning

I email Red. It’s a ploy, I doubt she checks her emails daily, she’s just not that techno.

There’s also the out-of-range option, but it might be necessary to phone later so I leave this avenue of communication open.

I type: Hi Red, I have had a very successful start to the investigation. I have found a boat that belongs to Clay Goldshield’s CEO Randal Malcolm and am keeping it under surveillance. I have also heard about his local haunt and intend to go over there later to see if I can learn whether he is involved in any drug activities. Please let Amanda know that the investigation is progressing well. Dusty.


I focus Janet’s binoculars on the boats. There’s something going on, both boats are lit up, and I can see people on Randy’s boat, although the other one’s blocked from my view. Maybe they’re loading the drugs, getting ready for departure. Our friend on the tinny said they were leaving in a couple of days. Should be in Mooloolaba just after the triathlon.

I duck out to the balcony every so often - constant activity. It’s obvious I’m not going to get onto the boat tonight.

Janet’s still with her new "love", so I head for the pub.

According to the woman on reception it’s not far, so I walk. I’m not uneasy, although the local boys don’t seem impressed by a woman on her own at night, hiss at me as I walk past.

The bar’s easy to find, on the main road in town, and on the water. It’s also full of Aussies.

I order a Tusker, find a stool, table, and take in the room. White people in board shorts and T-shirts, tourists and expats, I reckon, more men than women. All pretty drunk, not very pretty.

It never takes long for a single woman to find company in a bar.

"Hi. Buy you a drink?"

Australian. I hold up my Tusker. "I’m right thanks."

He’s late 20s, tanned, fit, several days growth. He’s wearing the uniform - board shorts and t-shirt, and he’s chatty.

"On holidays?"

"Yeah. Got in last night."

"On your own?"

"With a friend."

"Dive? Got a boat, take you and your friend out. Great coral reefs."

He’s not just chatty, he’s drumming up business.

"Never got into diving. Went snorkelling this morning. You live here?"

"Yeah. Got my own business."

"Make good money?"

"Not bad. Lots of tourists."

Time to do some more digging on Captain Randy.

"What’s your name?"


"Dusty." We shake - firm, honest shake. "Heard about a bloke teaches sailing, Captain Randy, know him?"

"Yank. Doesn’t have a good reputation." He takes a swig of his beer. "Got a mate with a sail boat, could hook you up with him."

"Friend told me Captain Randy was the way to go."

He sizes me up. "Depends what you’re into I suppose."

"What do you mean?"

"Heard stories about Captain Randy. Keep away from him if I was you."


Episode 97: Stretching the truth

So Captain Randy does have a reputation around town. I wonder how far I can push Hugo, what I can learn. "Said you’ve heard stories?"

"Word is he’s involved in unlawful activities." He thinks before he speaks, picks at the label on his beer.

Be a PI Dusty, draw him out. "Thought he was a developer. Did the sailing on the side."

"That’s what he wants people to think. Cover for his other activities. Like I said, give him a wide berth myself, suggest you do the same."

I want more. "So what are we talking? Bit of dope?"

"Not just a bit, and not just dope. Look, I never seen anythin’ myself. Just heard stories."

A mate of Hugo’s walks up, plonks three beers on the table, hands me one. Hugo seems grateful for the interruption, introduces us. "Dusty, Reg."

"Hi Dusty, wanna beer?"

Why not. "Thanks."

"Dusty’s been askin’ me about Captain Randy. Told her to keep clear."

"Bloody oath. Nasty piece of work."

"Thought we might go sailing with him."

"Hugo’s mate’s got a boat."

I get the message.

I want real information, should I mention the investigation, tell them to keep quiet about it? Can’t hurt. "Just between us. I’m a private investigator."

"Bullshit." Twice. They both look me over.

"What, I don’t look like a private investigator?" I’m wearing a sun dress, low cut, sandals. "I’m undercover, pretending to be on holidays." They’re still not convinced. "We’re trying to link Captain Randy’s business partner with some drug deaths back home."

"Yeah right."

I pull out my wallet, find one of Red’s cards. "This is my boss’s card. Mine are at the printers." I wish Red would get me some cards. What’s stopping her?

Hugo looks at the card, hands it to Reg who reads it, turns it over, reads the list of business services on the back.

"How long you been doin’ investigations?" Reg seems to be taking me more seriously now.

Should I be honest, or stretch the truth. I decide on some manipulation of the facts. "Couple of years. Started as a decoy, you know, checking out married men for their wives, then I did the PI course. Work the cases with Red, she used to be a cop."

Reg takes a couple more gulps of the beer, scratches his chest with the other hand. "You really wanna talk, should talk to Mel, she went out on the boat with him."

"She here?"

"Nah. Working, waitress." Hugo leans over to Reg, talks into his ear, Reg shrugs. He turns back to me. "Can tell you what she told me."

Bingo. "Want another beer?"

Hugo. "I’ll get ’em."

As he shoulders his way through the crowd to the bar I notice Pat. She’s perched on a stool, glass of white in one hand, the other on the thigh of a bloke – thick neck, huge back, arms rest on the table, t-shirt stretched around love handles. Turned away from me.


Episode 98: The dirt on Randy

Reg takes a swig, settles himself. "Okay, this is what I know. Randy’s a businessman, builds resorts, with his partner. Company’s Goldshield Developments."

Good, I know he knows what he’s talking about.

"The sailing’s a side thing, cover for the other activities. Drug smuggling."

"So the drugs are common knowledge?"

"Not really. Heard rumours before. You’re not interested you stay away."

I nod. "Sure."

"Wasn’t ’til Mel told me what happened when she went out, I got the whole story."

"How do you know Mel?"

"She came over here on holidays, met a bloke, came back, decided to stay. They split, she still works here. We went out for a while."

"And she went sailing with Randy?"

"Yeah, Mel and Chris, Chris’s gone back home."


"Wanted an adventure. Heard about Captain Randy’s free sailin’ trips around the Pacific. Got more than they bargained for."

It’s like pulling teeth, but I’m getting there. "What happened?"

"Short story. Randy wanted more than conversation, sexual favours were expected."

Not totally unexpected, but it’s not drugs. I nod, encourage him.

"One night the Captain tells them once it’s bedtime they aren’t to go up on deck for anythin’. Threatens them - even if the boat’s sinkin’. Sure enough, middle of the night, another boat pulls alongside, movement of goods on and off the boat. Don’t have to be smart to figure that one out."

This is gold, and it’s exactly what I’d hoped for. I’m going back home with all the information I need to bust a drug ring.

"Next day Mel decides to have a look around, see what she can find. Randy sees her, belts her, takes her and Chris up on deck, pulls out a gun. Tells them if they ever say a word to anyone they’re dead. Threatens to throw them overboard right there and then.

Reg drinks more beer. "Lots of cryin’ - Mel can turn on the waterworks. Anyway, they promise. When they get back to the harbour he gets the gun out again, repeats the message, in case they didn’t understand."

I nod wisely. "Thanks."

Reg. "Never actually saw anything."

Hugo. "Fits in with what you hear ’round tho’."

So they’re picking up the drugs at sea and moving them around in the boats. And there’s a boatload leaving for Mooloolaba in a day or so. "Anything else?"

"All I know. Talk to Mel, finishes in half-an-hour. Walk you up if you like."


"Be good to get scum like that off the island."

I catch Pat out of the corner of my eye, her eyes on us. Nosy bitch.

We chat, finish our beers. Reg walks me down the street - this time the locals don’t hiss at me.

Mel is finishing up, waves. He motions me to stay, walks over to her, talks, comes back.

"Won’t talk. Too scared."

Shit. "I won’t stir up any trouble for her."

"Said no way. Can’t blame her. I told you what she knows."


Episode 99: A pretty good plan

Reg turns back towards the bar.

"Mel changes her mind I’ll be at the Sebel a few days. Dusty Dexter."

"She’s just a kid."


"Want me to walk you back?"

"No. Just up the street. Thanks for your help."

Pat’s walking in my direction, unsteady on her feet.

"Pat. You following me?"

"Why the f**k would I follow you?"

"No idea." Janet is paranoid. "Where you staying?"


Makes sense. "Walk with you."

It’s time to go home, put together a plan for tomorrow. Most important, quiz Janet about the date.

We’re in the foyer, I head towards the lifts. "What floor you on Pat?"

She slurs, "Gotta check some messages," heads towards reception.

"Probably see you tomorrow."

Janet’s not home, I take that as a good sign, go straight out onto the balcony. Some lights are still on at Randy’s boat, although I can’t see any movement on deck.

I want to check out Joey’s boat, but I need to make sure there’s no one on board.

Tomorrow night, while they’re celebrating their departure. They’ll have people keeping guard, but I’m planning to swim out, nice and quiet. Janet can stay on the shore, warn me if she sees anything.

I reckon it’s a pretty good plan, and I think the Angels would agree. I don’t think they’d be put off by a little night time swim, or drug runners with guns.

Hank and Red will be proud of me. I congratulate myself on a good evening’s work, grab a beer, prop my feet up on the balcony rail. This is the life, I’m a private investigator operating undercover in an exotic location. It’s the most fun I’ve had since...

The door opens, I call out over my shoulder. "Still a virgin?"


"How come?"

"I told you, it’s romance, not sex."

"That’s right. Let me get you a beer, tell Dusty all about it."

She gets the beer herself, sits beside me on the balcony. "What’s happening at the boat?"

I allow her to change the subject, temporarily. "Lights still on, not sure if anyone’s home."

"Go to the pub?"

"Yeah." I wonder how much information I should give Janet about Randy’s activities. Definitely won’t mention the gun, don’t want her to worry unnecessarily. "Randy wasn’t there. Met a couple of Aussies. Just like Friday nights at the surf club."

I take a slurp of the beer. "So, how was the date?"

"Good. We talked."

"For four hours."


"What about?"


"Like to narrow that down?"

"Only if you’re going to listen."

"All ears."

"And no smart comments."


She puts the beer on the table. "Peter’s not just a crew man on the boat, his father owns it, he’s a businessman, exporter. The tourist trips on the boat are a partnership. Peter’s taking a break from uni, helping on the boat."

"There a uni here?" I’m surprised.

"Fiji. He’s studying law."

"Smart boy." I’m impressed, I can tell she’s impressed.

"So there." She looks smug.


Episode 100: Doing what needs to be done

JANET’S found a boy. Amazing.

"He’s nice, and smart."

"Does he have a girlfriend?"

"He did, but they grew apart."

I’ve heard that one before. "So he’s available for a quick holiday romance."

"You promised."

"Sorry. Continue."

"That’s it. I’m going to see him again tomorrow night."

"More talking?"

No response.

"Need you to help me for a while tomorrow night, Janet."

"Doing what?"

"Nothing much, just keep an eye out."


"Don’t know exactly. Once Randy and the boys leave the boats for their farewell piss up."

"What’re you going to do? Or shouldn’t I ask?"

"I’m going to swim out to Joey’s boat, have a bit of a look."

"You’re an idiot."

"I’m an investigator. Doing what needs to be done to track down illegal drug runners." Janet doesn’t understand, will never understand. That’s why she’s a small-town journalist and I’m destined for bigger things.

"You’re going to wait on the shore, give me a yell if you see anyone."

"What if you get shot?"

Haven’t considered this as an outcome. Didn’t get shot last time someone fired at us in the water. "Call the cops."

Hank gave me that number. "Got a number for the cops somewhere, I’ll give it to you."

She puts her beer on the table, leans forward, looks right at me. "So you’re going to swim in the harbour at night, nothing dangerous about that, climb on board a yacht you suspect of being loaded with drugs, hope there’s no one on board, have a wander around, then nonchalantly swim back to shore."


She says nothing, nods a few times.

"We’re here to do a job, Janet, not just have a holiday. You knew the score when you signed on."

"Signed on?" She gives it a tone.

I ignore the implication that this is not serious business, after all, I’ve only told her what she needs to know, so she’s not exactly up to speed with the intricacies of the operation. "You won’t be in any danger, Janet."

"Don’t you think you’re getting a little carried away? If you’re right, and there are drugs, we should be leaving this to the professionals."

"I’m a professional."

"Since when? Have you actually done any study?"

What’s study got to do with it? This is on-the-job experience. We’ve only been here a day and I’ve got more information than Hank and the cops got in two weeks.

I put my beer on the table opposite hers, look her in the eye. "Do you think Red and Hank would have let me come over here, undercover, if they didn’t have faith in my abilities?"

"Probably sent you over here to get rid of you." She mumbled it into the neck of her beer, but I heard every word.

"That was my plan."

"I’m going to bed."

"Night, Janet."

I take another look through the binoculars - no action - finish the beer. I see Janet set the alarm for the early-morning swim. Bugger.

Next week: Dusty and Janet take an early morning swim around the island

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