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A shark is circling Nick in the stranded rubber ducky



“Twenty five,” said Nick. “Three tonnes of him. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”The fin of the big white pointer sliced through the water as the shark came closer and nudged the boat.“He’s testing us,” said Nick. “Next time he will take a bite. How are you going with the engine?”Trevor was frantically fiddling and muttering through a checklist that he kept restarting. Nick decided to distract him so that he would return to the checklist by rote.“So why do you think someone would want to kill Laurie Dobson?” he asked.“What? Oh, I don’t know,” said Trevor, now running through the engine list more calmy. “You know I’m the club treasurer and he was helping out with a big bequest we had received.”“That’s interesting,” said Nick, watching the shark’s fin turn towards them and pick up speed. “Any problems with that?”“Yes, the old lady’s family was bitterly opposed to the club getting all her money,” said Trevor. “Laurie was dealing with them. “They were very angry.”The shark was picking up speed as it tore towards the boat. Nick looked down, turned on the fuel line and said: “Try it now.”Trevor pulled on the starter and the engine roared into life. He twisted on the throttle and the boat jumped away as the disappointed shark turned back towards the beach.They turned the boat in a tight arc and headed back towards the shark.Tomorrow: Who is upset about a bequest to the club? EPISODE 14“Ho, ho, ho,” shouted Nick as the red rubber ducky carrying him in a Santa suit pulled into the beach. Nick jumped off the front and promptly disappeared from view into a deep channel.“Here you go, children,” he spluttered as he emerged, his soggy Santa suit now 20kg heavier, handing out wet presents to a horde of Nippers swarming around him.“I think that went very well, darling,” said La Contessa sometime later. She had heeded Nick’s appeal to wear a one-piece swimsuit and her barely there top was linked to a micro bottom by a single strand. There was a cry as a man walking past the patrol tent fell into a hole.“Thank you my Brindisi bombshell,” said Nick, now back in his surf lifesaving uniform. “Have you heard anything from the patrol members about the two deaths?”But before La Contessa could answer, a panting surfer in a black wetsuit ran up to the tent.“Shh, shh, shh …”“Quiet please,” said Nick. “He is trying to tell us something.”“SHARK!” shouted the surfer.Nick was already running towards the red inshore rescue boat as the other patrol members started blowing their whistles and urging people from the water. Nick and driver Trevor Fairlight pulled the front of the boat into the waves and fired up the outboard.“Has it ever occurred to you that we are rushing out towards one of the most deadly creatures on the planet in the equivalent of a child’s paddling pool?” shouted Nick.“It’s OK as long as the engine doesn’t die,” shouted Trevor as the engine fell silent.EPISODE 13“I thought La Nina would mean no bushfires this year,” said Detective Inspector Cleaver, sipping his pre-Christmas dinner sherry. “But I’m sure I can smell smoke.”“Now you mention it,” said Jo Dobson, daughter of murdered patrol captain Laurie. “I can too.”“The turkey!” cried La Contessa, leaping to her feet and sending glasses flying. “I put it in last night and forgot to turn off the oven.”“What do you mean you put it in last night?” asked Nick, following her into the kitchen and watching as she pulled a blackened, smoking corpse from the oven. “Were you worried it would not be cooked?”“Christmas is ruined!” wailed La Contessa as a flame licked at the turkey leg. Baxter gave the burnt offering a cursory sniff and retreated to the garden in disgust. “Even the dog won’t eat it.”“Don’t panic my Imola immolator,” said Nick, his head in the fridge. “Only the turkey is ruined, the vegetables are all fine.”He emerged holding a tiny spatchcock, his eyebrows raised in question.“I was going to do the turducken thing with one bird stuffed in another but I changed my mind,” said La Contessa. “Thank goodness mother is not here to see this.” “We carry on,” said Nick, putting the spatchcock on a baking tray and popping it into the oven. “Never cry foul over fowl.”An hour later they were all sitting at the table as Nick appeared carrying an enormous board with the tiny spatchcock. La Contessa was dabbing her eyes with her apron. Nick ceremoniously sharpened the knife and asked: “Leg or breast?”EPISODE 12“Go on, Detective Inspector,” urged La Contessa. “Open your present first.”The portly policeman ripped at the wrapping to reveal a round silver tin of Dunhill pipe tobacco imported from England. He smiled appreciatively.“Now me,” said La Contessa, tearing open a package to reveal a tiny wisp of lace. Nick coloured slightly.“Ah, yes, well I thought we might be opening that on our own,” he stammered. “Merry Christmas.”Josephine Dobson, daughter of dead patrol captain Laurie, then tore at a large package and pulled out a lime green shapeless cashmere jumper with a snowman on the front.“My mother knitted it,” said La Contessa, as Jo cast a stricken look for help to Nick.“Don’t worry, you are not expected to wear it,” he whispered. “Give it to Baxter.”“Here is your gift, darling,” said La Contessa with a flourish.Nick opened the package to find a tracker to attach to his car keys.“But I don’t lose my keys,” said Nick.“No, it’s for my keys,” said La Contessa. “I am giving you the gift of time. No more wasted hours helping look for my keys and being late everywhere we go.”La Contessa then pulled out two packages and put them on the floor in front of Baxter and Detective Inspector Cleaver’s bulldog Brian, who were already salivating.“You can’t beat a few dead bones at Christmas,” she laughed as the dogs ripped open the paper. Jo Dobson stifled a sudden sob, jumped to her feet and ran down the hall and into her room. “Oh dear, that may have been a little insensitive.”EPISODE 11“Darling, are you sure mother cannot come for Christmas?” asked La Contessa for perhaps the 10th time that morning. “She does so love a family occasion.”“I have been on the phone trying for a flight all morning,” said Nick sadly as the sound of a re-run of the Ashes radio cricket commentary played in his earphones. “Howzat!”“What’s that darling?” asked La Contessa, looking up from the cake she was icing. “Success?”“Er, no, I was saying how’s that for service,” sighed Nick. “I am afraid that dearly sainted woman will have to spend the festive season alone.”Baxter wagged his tail appreciatively.“Well we certainly won’t be lonely,” said La Contessa. “I have asked Josephine Dobson to come and spend a few days with us.”“Splendid idea my Hermada hostess,” said Nick. “And while she is here we can quiz her on what she knows about the death of her patrol captain father Laurie.”“Oh yes, so we could,” said La Contessa. “I was actually feeling rather sorry for her after losing her dad like that. Apparently her mother is also dead and she has no siblings.”The front door bell rang and Baxter erupted into barking life, hurtling down the wooden hall in a whirl of scrabbling paws. Nick followed and moments later reappeared with a young blonde woman carrying an overnight case.“Jo, darling, welcome,” said La Contessa, throwing her arms into the air. “Mi casa e su casa.”“Thank you so much for having me,” said Jo quietly. “It will be so nice to spend Christmas with people who knew my dad.”EPISODE 10“That’s better,” sighed Nick taking a sip of his martini. “So how did you both end up buried up to your necks on the beach?”They were sitting, bedraggled and covered in sand, at the outdoor tables of the cafe opposite the surf club. Baxter had drunk three bowls of water and was passed out under the table.“Well darling you had just left when the phone rang and a voice said: ‘The killer is at the club’,” explained La Contessa. “Of course, Baxter and I whizzed straight over.”“Did you recognise the voice?” asked Nick. “Was it male or female?”“I couldn’t tell,” said La Contessa. “It was very husky. Anyway we arrived, I parked in my usual spot, and Baxter got straight onto the scent.”La Contessa paused to take a hefty hit of her martini. “Baxter dragged me round the corner of the building and onto the beach.”“I think I can see where this is going, my Inverigo innocent,” said Nick.“Exactly,” said La Contessa. “Baxter latched onto something in the sand and the next thing he was wobbling around. I bent down to see if he was OK and something bumped me on the back of the head.”“Sounds like Baxter was drugged and you were coshed,” said Nick, balling his fists.“The next thing I knew we were buried in the sand and the waves were getting closer,” said La Contessa, stifling a sob. “Then my knight in shining armour arrived.”“The one thing we do know,” said Nick, squeezing her shoulder. “Someone wants to stop us asking questions.”EPISODE NINE‘Hurry!” said La Contessa. “That last wave stopped six inches short of my chin.” Nick fell to his knees and started frantically digging.“The dog!” exclaimed La Contessa. “You choose to rescue the dog first?”“Yowf,” said Baxter as Nick pulled the sandy beagle free. Baxter gave himself a shake and immediately set to work like a tunnel boring machine digging at the sand trapping La Contessa.“Oh I see,” conceded La Contessa. “Four paws are better than none. Quick you two, that wave almost reached us.”Nick freed La Contessa’s arms and she started scooping the sand away too. Some of the dry sand poured back into the hole and the next wave was only held back by Baxter’s growing pile. “If the water gets in the hole we will be in trouble,” gasped Nick, sweat beading his brow. “Come on Baxter!”The tireless dog redoubled his efforts and La Contessa let out a cry as she pulled her foot free. The second was moments behind it just as a wave finally poured into the hole, turning the sand to heavy sludge.“We just made it,” sighed Nick, laying on the sand next to a spreadeagled and panting Baxter. “That was close.”“I never doubted you boys,” said La Contessa, sitting beside them. “Although you were a bit slow following my clue.”“Why didn’t you just say where you were going?” asked Nick.“Can I do that on an investigation?” said La Contessa. “I thought detectives have to leave clues.”“My mistake,” said Nick. “Now, would you like to tell me exactly how you both managed to find yourselves buried up to your necks on the beach?”EPISODE EIGHTMariabella, Baxter, I’m home,” called Nick as he came through the back gate. “Hello.”The house was unusually quiet. There was none of the familiar yapping. Baxter was silent too.“Odd,” Nick said to himself as he went from room to room. “Where could they be at this hour. It’s martini-o-clock.”His eyes fell on a hastily scribbled note laying haphazardly on the glass-topped coffee table in the garden. “Gone clubbing,” it read.Nick’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “I hardly think Baxter is going to enjoy cutting the rug at a discotheque.”He headed out to the garage where La Contessa’s black Mercedes SLK was missing. He hopped into his Ford Ranger – a bit excessive for the city but very handy at Bunnings – and drove off. Nick relaxed his shoulders and followed his gut.Before long he found himself tootling along the seafront towards the surf club where he spotted La Contessa’s Mercedes parked in a spot marked: “For exclusive use of the club president.”Darkness had fallen, he could hear the waves pounding on the beach but could only vaguely see the whitewash. He thought he heard something and strained his ears. Nick trusted his instinct and walked onto the sand.Approaching the sea he saw two bumps on the water’s edge. At first he thought they might be a pair of footballs forgotten by some children but as he got closer they began to take shape.“Mariabella! Baxter!” exclaimed Nick. They were both buried up to their neck’s in the sand.“I thought you would never get here,” said La Contessa. “You had better hurry, the tide is coming in.”EPISODE SEVEN“Well darling I think we need to divide and conquer,” said La Contessa. “Why don’t I try and speak to the bank fellow Trevor Fairlight.”“Only the head of MyWealth Bank,” said Nick. “And I have just received a text from Lena Kuzina saying she will meet me for a coffee in the city.”A short time later Nick was shifting uncomfortably under the unwavering gaze of platinum blonde patrol member Lena Kuzina.“You know in the Ukraine we have a saying,” she said. “The maggot in the apple is always juicy.”Nick looked nonplussed.“You’re right,” said Lena. “It doesn’t really translate very well.”“Can you think of a reason why someone would want to kill our patrol captains Laurie Dobson and Lauren Murray?” asked Nick.“You think they were killed?” said Lena breathlessly, her manicured hand gripping Nick’s arm. “This is just like when our President Viktor Yuschenko was poisoned. It must be the Russians.”“Not sure we have too many Russians on our patrol,” said Nick. “Could it be anyone else?”“Of course Bazza and Lauren were having an affair until she ended it the day before she died,” said Lena. “Maybe he was angry.” “But why Laurie?” said Nick. “Did they have anything in common?”“No, very different. He was very strict. Like a sergeant major,” said Lena. “I liked it. Do you like discipline, Nick?”“Good Lord, is that the time,” said Nick hurriedly getting to his feet. “Have to dash.”“Don’t forget Nick,” Lena called after him. “Look for the Russians.”EPISODE SIX“It is lovely you boys take the dogs for such a long walk,” said La Contessa as Detective Inspector Cleaver arrived at the back gate with his English bulldog Brian.“Healthy heart, healthy brain,” said Cleaver as Nick and Baxter joined them. They headed 200m up the road, turned the corner and sat down on a park bench.“Martini Detective Inspector?” asked Nick, pulling a Thermos of premixed cocktails from his pocket. “I’m keen to hear what you found on the file about the death of patrol captain Laurie Dobson.”“Well as you know, he was ironically killed by a truck after he had finished patrol,” said Cleaver, assembling two antique collapsible silver cups. “Cause of death, misadventure.”“However I sense something more,” said Nick, pouring the martinis as Baxter and Brian both let out audible sighs and lay down by the bench. “Am I correct?”“Yes, the devil is in the detail or rather, in this case, the witness statements,” said Cleaver, pausing to sip his martini. “Several people who saw him tumble into the path of the truck observed a lifesaver scrabbling to save him.”“Do we know who it was?” asked Nick. “No, they did not stick around,” said Cleaver. “Which, as a lifesaver yourself I am sure you are aware, is highly unusual.”“Indeed,” said Nick, nodding slowly. “Was the lifesaver in question really trying to stop poor old Laurie from falling into the truck’s path?”“Or pushing him into it,” said Cleaver. “The questions you need to answer are who and why.”EPISODE FIVE‘So you want me to talk to patrol member Barry ‘Bazza’ Jones,” said La Contessa. “To see if he knows why someone would want to kill patrol captain, Lauren Murray.”“Exactly,” said Nick. “I think he may open up more to a woman.”“Especially if Mr Bazza is so classy that he drives a big blue Mercedes as you say,” said La Contessa.“Ah, my Invergio interlocutor, he is called Bazza because his name is Barry,” explained Nick. “Just like Gary would be Gazza.”“Oh, so our butcher is called Gary,” said La Contessa. “I should call him Gazza?”“No, he has red hair,” explained Nick. “So we call him Blue.”La Contessa looked confused. “What if he had no hair?”“Then he would be called Curly,” said Nick. “Anyway, you had better hurry otherwise you’ll miss Bazza when he comes to pick you up.”Several hours later Nick was on his third martini and pacing the garden with Baxter when La Contessa burst through the back gate.“I didn’t realise Mr Bazza’s big blue Mercedes was a bus,” she said. “They are a wonderful service, just like big cheap Ubers.”“Did you find out anything?” asked Nick after spontaneously hugging his wife.“Oh yes, the 247 and 469 routes run through the night,” said La Contessa. “And then Mr Bazza took me back to the depot for tea with the other drivers before one of them put on the Out Of Service sign and drove me home.”“About the murders?” asked Nick.“Well,” said La Contessa. “Mr Bazza and Lauren were having an affair until she ended it the day before she died.”EPISODE FOURNick spills his martini at La Contessa’s disturbing suggestion. “Anastasia has finally opened the borders,” announced La Contessa delightedly. “Finally we can invite mother to come and stay with us.”Nick gave an involuntary shudder, spilling some of his martini. Baxter whimpered and put his paws over his head.“What a wonderful idea, only …” said Nick as La Contessa raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Only, we know a killer is targeting members of the surf patrol and, even though I only made a guest appearance, technically I could be considered a patrol member.”“You can take care of yourself,” said La Contessa. “But I don’t see what that has to do with my mother coming to visit.”“It’s just that there may be danger,” said Nick. “And I would hate to put that dearly sainted woman at any risk.”“Oh, I never thought of that,” said La Contessa. “You are such a thoughtful and wonderful man. Perhaps she can wait until after we have tracked the killer.”Baxter gave an audible sigh as Nick took a large, relieved sip of his martini.“And so, on with trying to find why these patrol members are being knocked off,” said Nick. “I think it’s time we deployed your considerable talents my Potenza Poirot.”“Oh goody,” said La Contessa. “I think I’ll wear my Burberry Mac so that I look the part. Perhaps with my old Panama and a pair of Manolo Blahniks.”“Attention to detail is crucial,” agreed Nick. “We need to interview the remaining patrol members to see if they have any idea why someone would want them dead.”EPISODE THREELa Contessa shouted “murdered!” to startled glances from nearby beachgoers. She lowered her voice: “How do you know she didn’t drown?”“Lauren Murray was a lifelong member of the surf club, represented it in competitions, she was as at home in the water as a dolphin,” said Nick. “And the surf was not particularly rough.”“But perhaps she got hit on the head by a surfboard,” said La Contessa.“Not between the flags,” said Nick. “We are very strict in keeping boards away from the swimmers, besides …”“Ah, Nick Moore, I know that look,” chided La Contessa as Baxter’s ears pricked up and his tail began to wag. “Besides what?”“When Baxter and I were rolling her on to the board I noticed a contusion on the back of her neck,” said Nick. “Not sharp like the end of a surfboard. The kind you get when you are hit by a blunt instrument like the haft of a knife or handle of a gun.”“So you think someone killed her and left her in the surf to make it look like an accident,” said La Contessa. “But why?”“Well I think we need to look at the death of the former patrol captain Laurie Dobson,” said Nick. “That may yield some clues.”“What? Are you saying that someone is killing off members of the patrol?” said La Contessa. “A surf club serial killer?”“Quite possibly,” said Nick. “We have two dead patrol captains, the old one and his replacement. Each of the remaining patrol members is a potential victim. “We have to find out why before the killer strikes again.”EPISODE TWONick and Baxter have pulled a woman from the surf … “You did everything you could,” Nick told the ashen-faced patrol members as the ambulance crew covered the body of their patrol captain Lauren Murray. “She would have been proud.”“I’m keeping on my dark glasses out of respect,” said a bikini-clad La Contessa. “Darling, have you noticed how wherever we go people seem to come to some misfortune?”“Now you mention it,” said Nick, giving Baxter an affectionate rub as he sat on La Contessa’s towel. “There is a bit of a theme.”“When borders open properly I think we should emigrate and get away from all that,” said La Contessa. “There is a village in the UK called Midsomer where the houses are surprisingly cheap.”Before Nick could respond, the newest and youngest patrol member, Josephine “Jo” Dobson, came over.“I can’t believe Lauren is dead,” said Jo, her hands shaking and tears streaking her cheeks. “She only just took over as captain from my dad.”“That’s right, we only lost poor Laurie a couple of weeks ago,” said Nick. “How did he die?”“He was hit by a truck,” she said. “I know it’s ironic because of his name but that doesn’t make it any easier.”“No, it’s awful,” said La Contessa kindly. “Come on up to the club and we will get you a cup of tea.”“It’s so sad for the patrol to have their captain drown like that,” said La Contessa as Jo started off towards the club. “Now that’s ironic.”“It would have been if she drowned,” said Nick quietly. “But she was murdered.”EPISODE ONESummer and Nick is on patrol with his Surf Life Saving Club. “Darling, it’s so lovely to see you back in uniform,” purred La Contessa, as she arrived at the beach with Baxter.“My Rimini rulebreaker,” sighed Nick. “Dogs are not strictly allowed on the beach.”“Nonsense,” said La Contessa, unpacking her straw bag. “Anyone can see he is on my towel.”La Contessa proceeded to whip off her Zimmermann kaftan to reveal a barely-there bikini. An astonished man walking by tripped over a sandcastle.“I have shoelaces with more substance,” said Nick. “Don’t you think you should cover up?”“Oh, of course darling,” said La Contessa, putting on a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. The man who had fallen over the sandcastle proceeded to walk through the middle of a picnic.“I love it when you are on patrol, darling. Everyone is so friendly,” said La Contessa. “Why, look at the man in the water just waving at you.”Nick gave a quick blast on his Fox 40 whistle to alert the other patrol members and hurtled towards the water, grabbing a rescue board on the way. As he hit the first wave and prepared to jump on, a white and tan flash surged past him and landed with a thump on the front of the board. Baxter! “Good boy,” said Nick as he paddled furiously towards the man who was waving. Within moments he was there and saw the man was trying to hold someone up.“Looks like one of your lot,” said the man as Nick and Baxter pulled the lifeless woman wearing a lifesaver’s cap on to the board. “I think she is dead.”

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