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Ashley Taylor - Bali Beach Adventure: a short story
For many years I visited Bali a few times a year on business and on holiday. I grew to really love the place and the people that I met and worked with. One day I was lying by the pool, as was my daily ritual, when I started thinking and my imagination clicked in and so I jotted down this short story - just for fun.
Ashley Taylor - Bali Beach Adventure
It was a hot humid afternoon when I finally arrived at Denpasar Airport. The air was heavy and thick with the strong smell of incense and exotic spices. I was exhausted from the long flight of nearly 12 hours. I had to take whatever flight I could get at the last minute. So Sydney, via Singapore, to Bali was my only option. Sydney's where my office is. My name is Ashley Taylor and I'm a Private Investigator. I run my own business, 'Ashley Taylor Private Investigations'. I'd just finished a long and messy divorce case. Financial settlement. You know the story - husband has his money tied up in several different corporations under several different aliases. Wife hires me - figures I'll be more sympathetic, being a woman. My job is to unearth his little web of deceit and disentangle the web, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, I was spent and in desperate need of some 'R and R'.
As soon as I got through immigration and customs I was set upon by three or four porters, all wanting to carry my bags...for a fee, of course. Normally I would have politely shooed them away and carried my own luggage, but today I was tired and hot and just wanted to get to my hotel and settle in on a deck chair by the pool with a good book and a long drink. That was my plan, the only item on my agenda for the next two weeks. Relaxing by the pool each day and staring out at the ocean would be like Heaven to me. I gave the nod to one of the guys and he took charge of my luggage and led me off to his air-conditioned taxi. We sped off through the maze of narrow streets crowded with motor scooters which darted in and out and the many other taxis - all hurrying to deliver their fare to hotels and shopping markets.
It had been three years since I had last been to Bali but as I settled back into the comfort of the leather seat, I began to notice some familiar scenery. The vendors along the road. The entrance to the food markets. A restaurant or two that I recalled eating at, and the larger than life Hindu sculpture in the centre of the big roundabout near Sanur. Before long I was in very familiar territory. I had walked those streets and explored the colourful markets many times while going from my hotel on the beachfront to the many shops and restaurants in the town.
My taxi turned off the main street in Sanur and headed down a small lane way, through a large, mossy stone gateway and down a long drive that led to the rather grand looking stone entrance to the Bali Beach Oasis Hotel, a small and exclusive boutique hotel. Privacy was what this Private Investigator wanted and the Bali Beach Oasis certainly fitted the bill.
A hotel porter opened my door and ushered me into Reception where my bags had already been taken and were waiting for me. I signed in, and I must admit, I didn't take in much of my surroundings as I followed the porter down the path through a tropical rainforest garden which opened up onto a beautiful courtyard. Alongside the courtyard was the most magnificent swimming pool I had ever seen. My bungalow was by the pool and looked out on the ocean. The view from my verandah was sheer paradise.
I unpacked, freshened up, changed and stretched out on my deckchair. I was too tired to even bother about eating dinner. I ordered a drink and lay there soaking up the beautiful sunset.
An hour or so later I was still reclining on my veranda sipping my third long drink and dragging on a french cigarette - long, smooth and aromatic, when I noticed the silhouettes of two people, a man and a woman. They were walking along the beachfront path in the moonlight. They paused under a huge overhanging Banyan tree by the stone gateway that went from the hotel to the beach. He pulled her close to him. She put her arms around his neck and pressed in close as though to kiss him...when he suddenly thrust his hands tightly around her neck. She seemed to struggle for a moment and then fell limp against his body. It was all over in less than a minute and yet the whole scene was happening in slow motion for me. I shook myself. Had I dozed off and dreamed it? Was my imagination and one too many drink playing a trick on my tired mind? Or, had I sat there passively and done nothing while a woman was murdered? There was no-one else around. Everyone had gone to dinner. The man must not have seen me. I was momentarily paralysed in disbelief, unable to process the enormity of what I had just witnessed.
I pulled myself together and yelled out, 'Hey, you! Stop! Stop!'
He turned for an instant, startled. He looked up to see where my voice was coming from, then he jumped up, dropping something, something that went 'clunk' as it hit the stone path. He glanced back again for a split second and then bolted. I jumped up and ran after him along the beach front and through the markets, and that's where I lost his trail. I searched up and down a few of the allyways that formed the maze of the market place, but he must have darted through the back of a shop or hidden in some dark corner. I doubled back to the hotel and to the scene of the crime. The woman was still lying where she had fallen. I checked for a pulse. As I had suspected, there was none. I remembered the 'clunk' of something I had seen the man drop. I felt around in the half darkness for it. Bingo! My fingers came across it. I picked it up and put it in my shorts pocket. I ran back to my bungalow and called for the Police, who arrived promptly, and commenced going through the motions - their usual procedures for dealing with a case such as this.
The Officer who seemed to be in charge of the investigation wasn't very interested in what I had to say. He told me, in his broken English, that they had this type of bungled robbery of a tourist from time to time and there was not much they could really do. They would of course follow through all the usual lines of enquiry, but he was not very hopeful of apprehending the murderer. The Officer seemed resigned to writing it off as another unpleasant tourist mugging, probably by someone who had come down here from another town and hassled tourists of a day.
So, I thought, she had been a tourist, and most probably European.
That night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned and ran the sequence of events over and over again in my mind. What did I know? I was certain, well pretty certain that he, the murderer, was blond and quite tall - maybe 6 foot. Probably German or Dutch - well European I thought, from the brief impression I had. I was certain he was not a local as the Police had insisted.
I had seen the murder happen. I was the only witness. What had I seen that I had not yet realised? Was there a clue I had failed to notice? Surely there was something else I could do. I sat staring in the dark, trying to wrack my brain but nothing would come.
'Come on Ashley!' I said to myself, 'You're a detective. You're trained to do this'. Then, in a flash I suddenly remembered I had picked something up from the scene of the crime. How could I have been so stupid? Why hadn't I thought of it when the Police were here?
I slipped my hand into my shorts pocket and produced...a phone, a very small phone. I rang reception and called for the Police to come urgently. I was examining the 'find' when there was a knock on my door. I jumped, startled. I looked at the bedside clock. It was 1:30 in the morning. Who on earth could that be? The Police come back...or...the murderer come back to deal with the only witness and retrieve his phone...the only evidence.
I quickly slipped the phone in my cigarette box and casually left the box on top of the TV. I grabbed my gun and hid hard up against the wall, behind the door.
'Who is it?' I asked.
There was no answer...silence.
'Bang!' A shot rang out. Followed by another and another.
Reflex, I hit the deck. Silence. Then I heard another couple of shots ring out. They seemed to echo round the courtyard...then silence.
After a short while I heard screaming and movement, then voices shouting out excitedly. The whole hotel must have been awake and outside in the courtyard now.
'It's okay, Miss,' a voice yelled to me in broken English from outside my door. 'You come out now, it all over, he dead'.
I could hear a great commotion going on outside now. I reached up from the floor, my gun on the ready, and turned the key in the lock and peaked through the crack in the open door. There were at least 20 policemen and what looked like most of the hotel guests all out in the courtyard.
I grabbed my cigarettes and went outside. There, on the verandah of my bungalow lay a body. I was certain, well pretty certain, it was the man I had seen earlier this evening. The man I had witnessed murder the woman down along the beachfront. The man who had most probably come back to kill me! - and to get back his phone, the only piece of evidence placing him at the scene of the crime.
My head began to spin. I could feel myself fading. 'It's okay', the Police Officer reassured me as he caught me and assisted me to my deckchair on the verandah. 'We have had you under surveillance the whole time. You were never in any danger. We were just waiting for him to make his move', he said. 'Well, it's a shame you forgot to let me in on the plan', I thought to myself.
'I must have some sort of magnetic force around me,' I said to the Police Officer. He looked at me rather bemused.
'I seem to attract this sort of excitement wherever I go. At least I can't say my life is ever dull...even on holiday!'
M.J. Drury (c) 2010. All rights reserved.