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PNG's No 1 detective rides again: Hari Metau & the hand-gun

Inspector Hari MetauPHIL FITZPATRICK

An extract from Phil Fitzpatrick's forthcoming Inspector Metau novel

THERE was nothing urgent that needed doing that day. There were no messages from headquarters and no cases requiring Hari’s urgent attention.

A few years ago this might have bothered him but now that he was drifting towards retirement it didn’t seem to matter much.

“The sea looks nice,” he remarked to Constable Bokasi as they pottered along Champion Parade and then out along Boe Vagi Road towards the new industrial estates behind Napa Napa. “Maybe we should see what the fish are doing.”

Constable Bokasi had got used to Hari’s variable work ethic, he was the sole survivor of a series of young constables who had been assigned to Inspector Metau over the years to learn from him and, he suspected, keep an eye on him.

Hari had taught these predecessors the arts of investigation and detection and then quickly dispensed with them. Constable Robert Bokasi had been unusually tenacious however and Hari had eventually developed a grudging fondness for the young man.  However, if asked, he would be reluctant to admit that they worked well together.

“I would have to change out of my uniform sir.”

Hari smiled to himself.  It wouldn’t have been many months ago that Constable Bokasi would have been appalled at the suggestion that they spend the day out on Fairfax Harbour fishing in his outrigger canoe while they were supposed to be on duty. Nowadays the constable went with the flow, well aware that when things happened Hari would be at the forefront doggedly pursuing justice.

They were about to do a U-turn when they saw the flashing lights of a police Land Cruiser coming towards them. Shortly afterwards it was followed by a speeding ambulance. Constable Bokasi already had his iPhone out texting the control room at headquarters. Hari waited patiently.

“A domestic dispute out towards Roku sir, there’s a man with a bushknife barricaded in his house, they think he has chopped his wife and there are children in there.”

“What’s it to be Constable, fishing or duty? The riot squad will be along shortly, they’ll probably shoot the bloke.”

“I think we should follow them out there sir.”

“Well said Constable, hang on Flynn, here we go!”


The house was one of a number of ramshackle buildings clustered in the scrub on the landward side of the road. The police vehicle was parked in the open at a safe distance from the houses. The ambulance had pulled up under the shade of a tree, its flashing lights still lazily rotating on the roof. A group of people were gathered around it. Hari pulled up and leaned out of his window.

“What’s going on?”

“It’s Rapia, he’s chopped up his wife and children and is refusing to come out; we called the police.”

Hari nodded and turned the motor of the Land Rover off. It spluttered for a few moments and then shuddered and was quiet. He walked towards the police vehicle with Constable Bokasi. Flynn had decided to stay back with the villagers. If Hari whistled he would come running.

The senior constable from the police vehicle was standing in front of one of the houses holding a loud hailer. The four policemen with him were all busily donning their riot gear and one of them had a tear gas gun at the ready. Hari recognised the senior constable.

“What’s going on Womi?”

“He won’t answer sir; I’ve called out to him to surrender several times but he refuses to speak.”

“Have you seen him?”

“Just a quick glimpse sir, he’s got a bushknife.”

“Is he a local man?”

“No sir, he’s a Goilala.”

“Oh dear!”

“That’s what I thought. Apparently he hasn’t been here long; he thinks his wife has been sleeping with the local Koiari youths, she’s got money and he doesn’t know where she got it.”

“What does he look like?”

“Pretty dishevelled sir, he’s just wearing shorts, the people say he’s been drinking steam all night.”

“Which he bought with his wife’s money?”

“Probably sir.”

“Hmm, maybe I’d better go talk to him.”

“It’s too dangerous sir; if he doesn’t come out soon we’ll use the tear gas and then rush him.”

And probably kill him in the process Hari thought.

“Perhaps I’ll just take a quick peek, then you can deal with him.”

Senior Constable Womi knew Hari well enough not to argue.

“Be careful sir.”


Hari walked to the house and pulled back the old blanket hanging over the doorway. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the gloom inside. He knocked politely on the door frame.

There was no answer. He knocked again. Still nothing. He was about to knock for the third time when a voice rasped from the gloom.

“What do you want?”

“Just a talk.”

“Go away, I don’t want to talk.”

Hari picked out a pair of bloodshot eyes. He looked around the room. There was a body in a pool of blood lying on the floor in one corner. Behind the body two small children cowered. A boy and girl Hari thought.

“Is you wife dead?”

“I chopped her, she’s a slut.”

The man’s voice was slurred and difficult to understand.

“In that case I will have to arrest you. I’m a police officer.”

“Go away.”

“I just have to warn you that you’re not obliged to say anything but if you do it may be taken down and used against you in court, do you understand?”

The man stepped forward and Hari could see him more clearly. He was short and heavily muscled, typical of the mountain Goilala people. He had a long-bladed and bloody bushknife in his right hand.

Hari sensed that Constable Bokasi had slipped through the door and was behind him.

“You’d better put the bushknife down.”

The man responded by raising the deadly-looking knife above his head and taking another step forward.

“Put the knife down, I won’t say it again.”

The man took another measured step.

Hari reached behind his back and then swung his right arm out towards the man. The first two fingers on his hand were pointed at the man and his thumb was sticking upright.

“This is a .45 Magnum,” Hari said. “It will blow your head clean off!”

The man had been about to take another step towards Hari but he suddenly stopped and looked hesitant. He rocked unsteadily on his feet and was squinting through his bloodshot eyes. Hari held the imaginary gun on him.

“It’s not loaded?” the man said.

“There’s only one way to find out. I hope you’re feeling lucky.”

The man considered this for a moment. He raised the bushknife again. Constable Bokasi got ready to leap forward. Hari made a loud clicking noise with his tongue and stretched his thumb back as far as he could.

The man hesitated for a moment and then dropped the bushknife. Constable Bokasi quickly swept it up. The man then collapsed to his knees sobbing loudly. Constable Bokasi gathered the two children up.

The woman was still alive. She had lost a lot of blood but she was a tough mountain woman and the ambulance officers thought she would survive. The man was led stumbling in handcuffs to the police vehicle. Relatives came and took the two children.

“If I find a mark on him I’ll have your guts for garters Womi,” Hari said as they loaded the man into the vehicle.

Womi smiled.

“The wife won’t press charges sir. He’ll do a couple of months in Bomana and then we’ll send them all home to their mountains with a warning never to come back. I’ll see to it personally but I expect that they will drift back to the bright lights again eventually.”

“Good for you Womi.”

“I didn’t know you carried a gun sir.”

“You’d better not mess with me Womi, I’ve got a bazooka in my other back pocket.”


“It was a .44 Magnum sir,” Constable Bokasi said when they were back in the Land Rover.


“Dirty Harry sir, he had a .44 Magnum, not a .45 like you said.”

“I wondered where that line came from, Constable.”


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Robin Lillicrapp

Good one, Clouseau.

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