Listen, mate. Something is rotten in the State of Victoria, Australia.
From the muddy banks of the Yarra, up and beyond Sydney Road, to the Dandenong mountain ranges….down to the borders of Port Phillip Bay where the fibreglass Luna Park clown, old Mr Moon, grins contemptuously over the brothels and slums of St Kilda. Fuck me sideways. Pernicious humidity followed by a spell of rain, and a sky perpetually overcast with moral decay. Something is wrong, and it rhymes with girder.
Yeah, see....in St Kilda, in July of 2017 a dead body was found in the Triangle construction Site near the Bay, adjacent to where the Palais theatre once stood —before it burnt to cinders. Body had also been burnt, and was unidentifiable, charcoaled as it was. Funnily enough...Nobody seems to know who is to blame. As daily race riots and brawls break out on St Kilda streets, and the cops impose tougher alcohol restrictions, this gaping wound remains untended.
J D Williams and the three Phillips brothers from Seattle had their part;— left their American legacy in Australia, no doubt about it— the Coney Island style theme park of vices, a carnival of underground crimes which led to that precise moment —a swamp of intertwined histories beyond my capabilities to research thoroughly or summarise accurately. Nevertheless, I swear to you old chum, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn into the tangled investigation of that mangled female corpse near Luna Park,... an investigation which would near drive me insane.
My name is Pharlap Dronefire, a Private Investigator based in South Yarra.
I’m not normally inclined to investigate murder cases, but this particular private client had a list of seemingly unrelated things he wanted me to research, the St Kilda murder being just one of them. As I didn’t have access myself to the police files, I resolved to meet up with my police contact, Andrew Barrington, and get the facts surrounding the case.
Officer Barrington consented to meet at Luigi’s; a video game themed bar on Acland Street. It was a hot Saturday, and the St Kilda crowds were wild and varied; thousands of English, Irish and American tourists flocked to the beach, whilst teenagers vomited on the rickety roller-coasters of the seaside theme Park. The scenes were impressionistic, with Bosch-like crowds, bollards lined with palm trees. Myriad junkies asked for change and cigarettes of passers by— on the street, whilst bips and boops sang out from customers playing the vintage arcade machines behind me.
I sat at the outside tables, drunks brushed by me on the cramped and cracked sidewalk, car pollution and smog slept thinly at knee level over the scene, as the green and orange blur of a passing tram flashed by.
I saw officer Barrington approaching from a distance and waved as he crossed the road, shortly he sat down at the table and we ordered two Pale Ales.
‘Thanks for comin’ Bazza’ I said with genuine appreciation. Barrington scratched his face, and muttered a kind of ‘no wukkers ’ through his chin.....he seemed to have a lot on his mind. ‘So what have you got on this St Kilda killing?’ I asked directly, ‘There’s almost nothing online about it, barely made a dent in the press.’ ‘Jesus Pharlap.’ Barrington sighed, ‘Haven’t you got anything better to do than dig up old corpses?’ ‘You know me Baz—’ I said, ‘I’m determined to end up a chalk outline myself. But this corpse is still pretty fresh i’d say. Why are the cops choking on this chicken anyway? What’s the unseen bone?’ ‘Look…’ Officer Barrington sighed, as our beers arrived and I took a big swig of lager; ‘The murder made the papers when it happened, toured the news for a week or so...but because the body has never been identified there hasn’t been much for the press to chew on. There’s no suspects, no motive or cause. We’ve only been barely able to piece together what actually happened.’ Barrington took a sip of beer, as I jotted down some notes. The officer looked down at my ex—left-hand for a moment, noticing the bandaged stub from the accident that had happened to me recently. ‘What happened to your hand?’ He asked. ‘My own bones have been chewed…You and I...’ I replied, ‘....Work in a dangerous line of work.....sometimes the danger of your profession leaks over to mine in unexpected ways ....probably best leave it at that. So what exactly DO the police know about this barbecued girl?’.
I noticed an extraordinary amount of discomfort in Barrington’s face as he discussed the girl. Being partially involved in the murder investigation, it seemed to have particularly disturbed him. He struggled uncomfortably in his seat, Barrington was a large muscular man with thick, black-rimmed glasses and layered, thin hair. His eyes seemed permanently tinged with paranoia.
‘Officially?’ Barrington replied nervously, ‘Nothing...... But unofficially....’ ‘You’ve got your own theories about who did this, don’t you?’ I asked making my own deductions. Bazza sighed and massaged the back of his neck; ‘Look’ he said, ‘Whatever I tell you here is completely off the record. You understand?’ I made an affirmative gesture.
‘You know well— I’ve been investigating various unsolved gangland killings for a long time.’ Said Officer Barrington, ‘We’ve discussed previously my unofficial research and interests.’ I nodded, motioning him to continue. ‘Well. Hexton Police Station is full of officer’s hunches. We’ve always known of these criminal families running things, and what not, but sometimes you don’t have the evidence to put the bastards away. This case goes back years....’
Another tram chimed past in the street as Bazza continued his story; ‘There was the Walsh Street Massacre in 1988; that set a wave of anxiety through the ranks. You’ve head of it?’ ‘Sounds familiar. That’s what ‘Animal Kingdom’ was about, right?’ I said. ‘Right. Before Howard took the guns away, you had the crime families, bank robbers, strings of crimes done with sawn-off shotguns in broader Hexton. Cops shot Greame Jensen, and Victor Pierce promised two cops would die in revenge attacks. After those two young coppers were murdered in Walsh Street, the cops fought back. Executed a bunch of the gang leaders. Then there were the trials of the Walsh Street killers, that bitch Wendy Pierce didn’t testify. Half the buggers never done time. I was trying to nail Peter McEvoy for a long time in the nineties. He moved up to NSW after he was freed.’ I furiously recorded notes as the officer spoke.
‘After the gangland killings of the nineties, and the Purana task force, it took years to catch up on who was doing what. Well that’s when I really went down a rabbit hole in my research. Started trailing these rich crime families who’d been running tricks over the NSW/Victorian border for over a century unchecked. I’m not talking about Gangitano, Gatto or the Manillas. Used to be all the crime was comin’ in from the docks, you know? The Painter and Dockers union, that’s where Victor Pierce worked, the Walsh Street murderer, the Moran family and the Carlton Crew, they were all running drugs through Port Melbourne. The Calabrian mafia, AKA the honoured society, the Ndrangheta—now they also got their claws into Australian society way back then too, they come down from Queensland, had their racketeering going through the fruit and vegetable markets. Everyone remembers the key events— Frank Benvenuto was killed in 2000, but even without their leader the ’Ndrangheta was obviously still operating —because in 2008 the cops seized 15 million ecstacy pills hidden in tomato cans from Calabria. Now, Frank Benvenuto rang Victor Peirce the day he died. You want my opinion— That’s because the thugs that organised Walsh Street, weren’t just acting on some petty revenge motive. The whole thing was planned from higher up, maybe Frank was fronting up to Peirce before he was shot, and maybe Peirce knew too much when he was blown away in 2002. You catch my drift?’
‘’Im trying my best to follow—’ I replied, still anxiously scribbling notes.
‘Keep up mate… Anyway listen, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, people have been too hung up on Islamic extremism to pay attention to what’s really happening with the Mafia and these other organisations, these crime families. Now there was way more knowledge of this in the police force, the internal corruption was proven to go right to the top….in the end — we know the Wood Royal Commission only really exposed the affairs of the Kings Cross Police in Sydney, barely scratched the surface of mafia interception and corruption within the government. Yeah, they brought in some regulations, hell… even that snake Roger Rogerson got done eventually,…the Labour party dealing with Mokbel was partially revealed… but all the while, secret meetings of the same groups were happening; members of corporations, corrupt police, board members, Australian politicians. I was still trailing them, I had addresses of mansions where these figures lived and hung out. Just waiting to catch a lucky break. This wasn’t just a few career criminals. It was like an underground cult.’
I polished off my beer and motioned with my hand to the waitress to bring out another one. ‘So you think this St Kilda killing was perpetrated by these underground crime families?’ I asked intrigued.
Bazza grew more paranoid still, almost sweating and glancing about him as if he was afraid of being watched. ‘There’s this urban legend among ...those interested in crime ....in this city. Have you ever heard of the the ‘Slaughter Theatre’ trilogy?’ ‘The what?’ I asked cluelessly. Barrington seemed peculiarly begrudging to keep telling me information about what he knew, nonetheless he obligingly indulged me;
‘Back in the days of Walsh Street there were rumours of these VHS tapes existing, you know?… It was rumoured that Peter McEvoy, Victor Pierce and other murderers involved in the police killings— used to film their crimes. Snuff videos —which would prove their identities in various murders —nail the Walsh Street killers, and hundreds of other crime figures….. these VHS were alleged to have been seen by multiple witnesses. The stickers on the old video tapes were supposed to be labelled ‘Slaughter Theatre’ in red permanent marker, creepy handwriting. That’s what all the legends say anyway. I know officers who claim to have seen some of this footage. I’m talking sadistic brutal shit. You remember Dennis Allen?’ ‘Sure’ I said. ‘Mr Death they used to call him, well— there’s apparently a snuff video of Allen cutting up one of his biker adversaries with a chainsaw, he’s covered in blood, films the whole thing as he approaches a bunch of slaughterhouse workers in their white gear. They’re all covered in blood and laughing their asses off, saying ‘What floor you working’ on then Dennis?’. Another guy I know claims he’s seen these tapes, proof of all kinds of things we just suspected… Mad Charlie being massacred at his home in Caulfield. Girls being raped and tortured and mutilated. One of the pieces of footage is allegedly of a group of about 30 members of the Comanchero Motorcycle club, and they’re standing around with a group of these government guys in suits, who pay them a bunch of money, then what follows is a sadistic orgy which ends in bloodshed and bizarre ritual.’
I sweated, my hand starting to cramp from the overload of information. I held my hand up for a moment, indicating Bazza to give me a second to catch up. Finally, after a deep breath, and massaging my wrist, I waved; ‘Go on’. Barrington continued;
‘In the nineties and noughties —more rumours popped up about these secret videos. Apparently rich perverts we’re paying criminals for these snuff films, this Slaughter Theatre….. some of them were even getting top notch production values with members of the Melbourne creative industry being involved. At least that’s how the rumours go. The legends are constantly embellished. In the 90’s it was burnt DVD’s which the files were allegedly being copied to. Press dubbed it ‘Slaughter Theatre part Two’. Then downloaded files, and well, you can imagine how the rumours escalated in the modern age of social media.’
I tried to absorb what Barrington was telling me, but had to admit it sounded suspiciously like an urban conspiracy theory. I tapped at my pad with the nib of my pen. ‘So how exactly does this relate to the burnt female corpse that was dumped here in St Kilda?’.
‘Listen,’ Barrington said adjusting his thick, black glasses nervously and preparing to stand; ‘I’m afraid there’s only so much I can tell you without compromising my job. That girl was burnt alive, with a can of gasoline. Autopsy confirms that much. If I tell you that urban legends suggesting that her murder was filmed— are prominent in police circles, would you even believe me? What if I told you I had proof that this murder was filmed as part of a third instalment in this snuff trilogy? Slaughter Theatre - Part Three. That these murders are having a resurgence ——that its all part of this conspiracy?’ ‘I’d say you were either crazy, or had something that would make the biggest news story in Australian history.’ I replied bluntly. Officer Barrington stood up and handed me a business card; ‘That’s all I can do, mate—to tip you off. Listen Pharlap… If you want to learn more I suggest you dig around about this snuff video, I think you’ll find more than you had imagined in your worst daydreams. The.... You’re going to want to speak to the guy —on this card’— (Barrington handed me a business card)— ‘…about a murder that happened at the Three Vertice construction site in Footscray in July 2016. Sorry I can’t be of more help...’ Officer Barrington then shook my hand firmly, and I thanked him before he disappeared into the St Kilda crowds.
So that was how it started. How my innocence was tainted, and I was dragged into this most unnerving and unusual investigation. The business card Barrington gave me belonged to somebody called ‘Drendyl Pex. Three Vertice Construction Company. Owner. Manager.’
For a moment I sat back, and tried to get the tangled mess out of my brain, sipping at the last of my beer. Surely Barrington had gone a bit nuts— reeked of classic Police conspiracy stuff. The idea that the whole criminal underworld is linked through some kind of satanic cult— it was absurd. Satanic Panic. And as for this snuff film? Well… I just had trouble believing that something that could’ve appeared on a /4chan creepy pasta/ could exist in any tangible reality. Nonetheless, right now, it was my only lead. If Barrington believed that the murder of the girl at St Kilda… could somehow be linked to another murder in Footscray, i’d have to investigate it, any other solution would be neglectful.
It was about a twenty five minute drive out to Footscray in my Valiant Charger. I had the air conditioning up to full blast, and my tinted windows down. The radio was blaring FURY FM, some poncy hipster DJ raving on about his succulent garden, and his batch of home-brewed beer. I was about to turn it off when a killer track came on, Head On by The Jesus and Mary Chain, so I cranked the volume and hit the gas. The DJ may have been an arsehole… but he did have decent taste in music, the next tracks were also great; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, MGMT -Little Dark Age, ORB -Man in the Sand, Nap Eyes -Don’t be Right. The synthetic pulses of the Chromatics cover of Kate Bush’s ’Running up that Hill’ was playing as I pulled into the car park of the Three Vertice construction company.
It was a busy location, with an adjacent yard; many workers in their flouro orange high vis neons and yellow hard hats coming and going. I stumbled over a poorly concreted patch of turf, up a flight of roughly hewn stairs, through a mesh steel fence, until I came into a sheltered office, and temporary reception desk. The lady at the desk gave me a funny look, and I realised I was still wearing my aviators and tennis visor, and I removed them for politeness. ‘Pharlap Dronefire. I’m here to speak to Drendyl Pex’, I said flatly. The blonde woman with dark wirey eyebrows still had an aggravated look on her face, she scowled and said, barely curteously; ‘I’m afraid Mr Pex is quite busy, do you have an appointment?’ I thought cunningly for a few split seconds; ‘No. But this is of a very private and urgent nature. Mr Pex will see it in his interest that we speak as soon as possible—’ ‘Im sorry sir, but Mr Pex….’— ‘—You can tell him it’s in relation to something that happened last year—at this site— he may want to keep confidential…’ The woman sighed, looking fearfully at her computer, ‘Ill try his office, if you just want to take a seat Mr….?’ ‘Dronefire’ I repeated, casually taking a seat on the old, tattered couch.
It was about a seven minute wait —before a well dressed man, with shoulder length, greased-back hair, purple waist coat, cravat, dark velvet jacket and long boots walked into the room. The woman stood up to introduce us, but before she had a chance the man lunged forward and stood before me with his right hand held straight. The man commanded a strange authority, so that I found I quickly leapt to my feet in his presence, and before I knew it we were in the middle of a firm handshake. ‘Mr Dronefire I believe? Drendyl Pex.’ ‘It’s a pleasure, sir, Is there somewhere we can talk a little more privately?’ ‘Of course, please… Come to my onsite office.’ I followed Mr Pex outside of the temporary unit, and we walked up a hazardous mud slide mountain to a— 3 metre square— white cubicle or trailer. Pex opened a door, and we entered into the luxurious space, decked out with a bar and expensive furniture and entertainment system. ‘Can I fix you a rum, Mr Dronefire?’ Pex asked. ‘I’ve never said no to a rum before.’ I replied truthfully. Pex pulled down a bottle from his packed shelves, dropped ice machine cubes into two glasses and poured. ‘On the rocks suit?’ ‘Yeah…that…uh…that….suits perfectly’ I replied. Drendyl handed me a three quarter full glass of pale liquid; ‘Have you tried it?’ He asked ‘Australian brand, from Adelaide, Gunnery, white spiced. Best this country has to offer.’ I took a sip of the drink, and was surprised by the earthy taste, it was dirty but delicious.
‘Mr Pex’ I said, ‘May I be upfront?’ ‘You want to know about the death that occurred last year.’ Pex replied; ‘I’m guessing you’re a Private Investigator or amateur sleuth of some kind.’ ‘Your receptionist passed on the hint, I suppose?’ I asked. ’I must apologise for our quote-unquote reception. It’s a temporary head office, we’re building a new office space here. Miss Weabley is actually our occupational health and safety manager, just filling the desk whilst we get a new temp in—’ ‘I’m not here representing anyone in a legal capacity Mr Pex’… I said, sensing Pex’s defenses, ‘…you guessed it right, I am a P.I-——— my client is interested in a murder that occurred in St Kilda recently, however other trails of research have led me to a you. Did the death last year occur at this location?’ ‘Aha!’ said Pex, seeming to have figured me out, ‘You’re following the urban legend surrounding a certain snuff film.’ I tried not to act surprised. ‘I can provide you some information about that. But follow me, I want to show you something first.’
Pex swigged the rest of his drink, and placed down the empty glass, I followed his lead, and we exited the white building, trudging around a muddy path on the outer rim of the construction zone. My head was warm from liquor and smog, the sprawling horizon bore the haphazard scattering of Footscray industry. ‘Just up here…i’ll show you…. is where the death happened Mr Dronefire. Alice Goddard. Up over the hill there. I’ll show you the place alright…but….. Are you familiar with Footscray at all?’ ‘Not really…Not a bulldogs fan….I…uh…I barrack for Essendon.’ I joked. ‘Blasphemy’ Pex smiled with formulaic small talk, ‘This was Wurundjeri land, where we are standing. Some time ago it was an immense lagoon where the Koories went fishing. There was a factory here at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution hit. They bulldozed it in the seventies, and it’s been nothing much more than landfill up until 2007 when the Three Vertice construction company purchased it. It’s been a sort of base for some time, although our head office used to be in Fitzroy. We are an equal opportunity employer Mr Dronefire. In the last 20 years, over 50 thousand employees; South Vietnamese, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Somalian, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indonesian —they have all come through here.’ ‘I’m not quite sure why you are telling me this Mr Pex’ I confessed. ‘I know you’re not a fool Mr Dronefire. We’ve been through our trials and tribulations, pleaded our side in court cases. I don’t particularly enjoy going through the ordeal of recounting the horrific tragedy that happened here last year over and over again. But if I can be plain with you, off the record…’ I nodded. ‘There’s no doubt that girl Alice Goddard was murdered out here, and if you ask me, the likelihood that someone under the employ of the Three Vertice Construction company committing that murder— it’s more than just a likelihood. Of course, you can understand…. why, as leader of this company I would be cautious about publicity over this, i’m not a monster. My pity for the girl is endless. I’ve been very frank with the police about giving them all our employee files.’
I felt like I had just taken in a whiff of pure Drendyl heroine, and had to take a minute to contemplate it. ‘I’m not here to accuse you or your company of anything untoward Mr Pex. Just to seek out the truth. To be honest, I have absolutely nothing in my research which even suggests that the murder which occurred in St Kilda is in any way related to the death of Alice Goddard.’ ‘Well… if you’d done your research, you’d know that she—Alice— was burnt alive.’ Pex stated plainly, ‘Similar autopsy results as your St Kilda murder. I read the newspapers too Mr Dronefire. If I was a police man, i’d definitely be looking at the murders as a double homicide, or possibly two murders in a repeat serial killing. Mind you, this country’s never been well equipped to deal with the serial killer phenomenon, the AFP has a history of bungled investigations in that regard.’ ‘This snuff film?’ I asked increasingly intrigued, but distracted—’You said you were aware of——‘ ‘Everyone in Melbourne is aware of Slaughter Theatre, Mr Dronefire. It’s a legend that’s been spreading around parties in the Northern suburbs for as long as Venereal disease.’ I tried to hold back a chortle, given the morose aspect of the subject matter.
Mr Pex began to walk again, and I followed him up over the last dirt pile which led to the alleged murder site. We were quite high up on the elevation now and had a good view of the Melbourne CBD. Pex stared outwards towards the skyscrapers looming over the Yarra on the horizon. ‘Do you know much about the Crown Casino?’ Pex asked, looking in the general direction of the deluxe crown towers on the horizon. ‘Only that it’s putting a lot of cash in Andrew Packer’s pocket’ I replied. ‘Pfa haha… Packer’s barely here, he’s too busy in Sydney building his 60 million dollar pad at Barangaroo, when he’s not brushing gently against his Scientologist buddies. Good mates with Tom Cruise our James, they’ve all stayed out here at Crown towers too; prominent Scientologists, the Kardashians, the Bush’s, the Rumsfields. Kerry Packer was much more interesting than his son, you know Dronefire. Back in the days of VHS, back when him and Rupert Murdoch were fighting their cold war over who was to be the king pin of the Australian media.’ I took a moment to absorb the serene, pale view of the spires of Hexton CBD, and the dark crown towers silhouetted by the glare of the sun. ‘I’m waiting for the day when the full history of Consolidated press broadcasting comes out,’ Pex continued, ‘…there’s a dark past there the public may never know about. But ol’ Kerry, he knew how to separate recorded history into public and private.’ ‘How do you mean exactly?’ I asked ‘I’m not going to spill all the dirt on Kerry—Mr Dronefire. My father and he had some shared acquaintances. We’d be here all year, and besides, what’s the point. The old cunts dead. You’re a younger bloke, aren’t you Dronefire? I’m guessing 34?’ Pex continued without waiting for an answer, ‘My generation will always remember the day— ha— when Nine Network over stepped Packer’s rule book….’ We reached the top of the hill and stared down into a junkyard of scrap material where the body of the girl had allegedly been dumped. ‘During the shortly lived ‘Australia’s Naughtiest Home Videos’ hosted by the Triple M yobbo Doug Mulray, do you remember? Grown men all over the country were loosening their belts with joy, but Kerry knew there was a time and a place for pornography, and Network television wasn’t it… Haha…. ‘Get that shit off the air!’ That’s what he told the Nine execs when he called them. You should have seen Doug Mulray’s face. Now young James, he’s much more interested in chasing girls, much more interested spending his time in Casino’s than policing the media-boundaries of public and private.’
‘Forgive me Mr Pex’ I interrupted, ‘Maybe i’m misunderstanding all of this. But what exactly does this have to do with the snuff film? Slaughter Theatre?’
Pex seemed satisfied he had given me enough time to look at the scrapyard the body had allegedly been dumped, his body language suddenly changed, and suggested I had overstayed my welcome, and he authoritatively began to escort me back down the dirt hilltop. ‘I can tell you everything I know about the snuff film Mr Dronefire. I’ve heard plenty of rumours about these murders being connected. About them being filmed, and what not. The rumours are everywhere out West and up North in Victoria. They have been for the last 50 years— every time a body shows up, theres a new trail of gossip. Melbourne IS the murder capital of Australia, Mr Dronefire. But unfortunately, I can attest to the truth of those claims no more than I can—the millions of claims about the Loch Ness monster. For all intents and purposes, those of us who are sane rightly dismiss such conspiracies as absurd. Right wing nuts who can’t handle disorder in everything, want everything to be part of some master plan. Then you’ve got the left wing vultures, media types who love a scandal, any fad you can write an article about, or make an indy film inspired by. That’s all this is. Now I have to apologise Dronefire, but I am a busy man. Always happy to help out any investigation, and i’d just as soon see whoever is behind these horrendous crimes behind bars, as much as you, the police— and the girls parents. Now—‘ I could see Pex was wrapping up, but I wasn’t a hundred percent satisfied with the information I had been given, and needed a few more points; ‘Do you mind if stick around here for another ten minutes, just to get some quick interviews with the staff?’ Pex looked mildly disgruntled but not resistant; ‘I can give you ten minutes. Longer than that and you’d be interfering with our productivity i’m afraid. You can speak to our onsite supervisor, he works with most of the staff here.’
Drendyl whistled, and an ocker looking fellow with a mullet, safety vest and a hairy arms made his way over. ‘Fortyn Kildare, this is Private Investigator Dronefire. He’d like to ask you a few questions about the death of Alice Goddard.’ Pex excused himself and disappeared, as I shook Mr Kildare’s hand. ‘You’re a little late aren’t ya?’ asked the gruff man in a thick Aussie accent; ‘Press was all over this ten months ago. What are you hoping to dig up now—eh??’
Continued in Part Two: https://www.reddit.com/libraryofshadows/comments/7new6s/slaughter_theatre_part_two/
It was raining lightly. I slinked along the Yarra Promenade, heading away from the crown casino amidst the somber Melbourne crowds. I spotted Kenny standing on the Evan Walker bridge, looking down into the water, staring at patterns of concentric circles of raindrops hitting water— cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
He was in off duty clothing. Brown fleece collar jacket, characteristic sunglasses and exposed balding head with tufts of stringy black hair. I’ve been spying on Officer Lothar for over a month. Ever since the yellow envelope turned up on my desk, addressed, ‘Urgent. For the eyes of -P. Dronefire’—inserted, a photograph of our mate Kenny, and a stack of hundred dollar notes. That’s me, Pharlap Dronefire’, (I work as a private investigator, from my inexpensive offices in South Yarra.)
Kenny’s been staying in a hotel in Southbank since Monday. I watched with binoculars— and waited till he left this afternoon, then followed behind him on the busy bridge crowds, crossing the river as the last glimmering rays of the sun fell behind the skyline of skyscrapers, domes and architraves on the Hexton North bank.
They say there are no corrupt cops anymore, well it’s true the old boys clubs were all taken down by the commissions in the 90’s and 00’s. They aren’t hiding in plain sight perhaps, but the smart ones just evolved, Kenny Lothar is one of the most cunning corrupt cops I’ve ever reviewed. A real bastard. If my hunch is right, Lothar dropped business mogul Art Herraway off the very same bridge I now watched him standing on, chopped up body parts in a green garbage bag —submerged now beneath ice cold, turpid Victorian water. That was three years ago today, it’s no wonder Kenny was staring down so melancholically into the green water of the Yarra river. He’s got a lot to think about.
We cross through the Flinders Street Station tunnel, and I follow at a safe distance in the busy commuter crowds. I almost lose sight of him as the green and yellow tram pulls past, ringing it’s gentle chime— but I just catch his frame as Kenny ducks into a small Vietnamese restaurant on the other side of the street. Shortly, I sneak in and take a seat at a small table behind a patterned screen, where I can see him but he can’t see me.
I order a raw beef Pho, taking a moment to absorb my surroundings and re examine Kenny’s case files in my mind. Something happened whilst Lothar was on the beat in Sydney, I’m sure he was involved with a murder that happened on Mcellhorne stairs in Kings Cross. Then he gets some contacts in the Victorian Police and transfers to Melbourne, but whatever he was up to in Sydney— he’s continuing it down here—I’m sure of that. There’s an underworld of clues, from the Walsh street massacre, to the gangland killings of the nineties. Unsolved murders and connections that create a puzzle leading straight to Kenny. Twenty two orange gold fish swish their tails longingly in a nearby fish tank next to a wooden statue of Bhudda. Fumes and aromas float over the counter adorned with green dragon carvings and a row of ceramic maneki-neko cats waving their arms in unison, below— Kenny’s balding head wrinkles with tension as he waits for his food.
I won’t pretend he doesn’t scare me. If it were just for Kenny’s underbelly credentials, and links to the Melbourne mafia— that would be enough to make me think twice about taking the case. But there’s more to Kenny Lothar than just power and murder. He is into some strange things— the occult. Pacts, rituals, self flaggelation. The case is so out of my usual line of work, I can’t help but wonder what the fuck I am doing taking it up.
I was slurping cautiously at my pho for two or three minutes before I got the break I needed. Kenny stands up to use the bathroom, leaving his wallet on the table. I know I’ve only got a slim chance to get it right, standing up as if I’m also going to relieve myself, then the subtle yawn, and sleight of hand. Before anyone notices I’m back out on the street, not having paid for my Pho, running —and holding the keycard for Kenny’s hotel room in my pocketed hand.
The rain increases. You get some weird cases as a Private Investigator. Most are straightforward; spying on cheating partners, divorce cases, over protective parents. Then there’s the ten percent, the odd cases from secretive private contractors, where you only learn bits and pieces about your client, what they want to find out and why. No doubt a lot of it is criminal linked, even though I do my best to filter out those types of clientele. Some of them are just perverts, mad eccentrics. This particular client was extremely secretive. Dealt only in cash, and written correspondence. I’d have hesitated entirely from being involved, but it’s good pay— and I’d do just about anything to help nail that prick Lothar.
As I’m walking back over the bridge towards Kenny’s hotel I start thinking about the objectives. The guy wanted pictures of Kenny’s hotel room— he was very specific about that. Seems very hung up on Kenny’s private activities. Wanted detailed notes and photographs on any occult rituals he was conducting. I mean—What the fuck, right? Ever get the feeling you’re getting caught up in the dangerous weekend games of eccentric rich people?
I pulled my collar up, ducking out of the rain inconspicuously into the Travelodge lobby. Trying to appear casual and sure of myself as I walked past reception and entered the elevator.
Kenny’s apartment was on the tenth floor, apartment 1001. Fortunately there was no one else in the lift, and I guiltlessly approached Kenny’s door once in the top floor. He had the ‘No servicing- do not disturb’ card over the door handle. The keycard tripped the beeping lock, and the door opened. There was a strange musty smell that hit me the instant I opened the door to his room.
Then the vision hit my eyes, he had been busy! Kenny’s hotel room was messy. It was a fairly big room, one huge decorative pillar marking the left wall, and drawn velvet curtains adorning broad, thick windows overlooking the city. There was a hexagonal table beneath the window covered in papers, and an adjacent chair on top of a zebra patterned rug which seemed to be concealing something staining the floorboards. The floor of the adjacent room was covered in curious objects that required detailed analysis. I resolved to first examine the table and the rug. Moving aside the chair, I quickly flipped up the zebra rug, and gasped as I observed the curious design beneath.
I took three photographs of the symbol with my phone, before continuing my analysis. It was a huge symbol, inked on the floorboards. The pattern was a kind of triangle with three six-shaped arms attached to all the vertices. My first thought was that the red stain was painted with blood, but as I touched the wet surface I concluded that it was more likely some thick kind of ink, pigment or paint. Certainly the symbol had been created for ritual occult purposes, thus far unknown.
I carefully placed the rug exactly where it was, so everything would be found exactly where Kenny had left it.
From my current vantage point I could see that there were two more symbols painted red on the walls in the first room; a circle with a serpentine line running through it on the left wall, and a symmetrical triad of lines on the right wall. I took some more photos of the symbols, and the layout of the first room with my phone.
I sat down at the table now, quickly examining the note books, covered in scrawled handwriting, books and reference material scattering the surface. It was immediately clear to me, that all of the written material was directly related to the ritual which Kenny had been enacting in the adjacent room— so I figured I’d better get a look at that room before any of the written material would make a lick of sense.
I walked cautiously towards the doorway marking the dark room beyond. I tried the light switch, but it appeared that Kenny had tampered with the power circuit. I turned the flash feature on, and snapped a few more pics of the dark room.
A friend of mine was a cop, who investigated the Hotel room of Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock, the guy who turned his hotel room into a fortress of guns, before killing 58 and injuring 515 people at a country music concert. My friend had told me going inside that room had filled him with such a sickness and revulsion at being in the lair of such a demented mastermind he’d had to take psychological leave for a month. I was starting to feel the same sickness exploring Kenny’s hotel room.
The most obvious aspect of the layout of the darkened room was the kind of checkerboard Kenny had painted in the middle of the room. The entrance to the room was marked in each corner by two pillars, with square plinths, and miniature stair cases leading down each side. Leaning against the ridged pillars were an ornate Axe, and on the other side was a heavy, Ancient gold shield emblazoned with a red scorpion.
Scattered all around the checkerboard were a vast array of objects which could at first be construed as random clutter, but only slowly developed a sense of order — that chilled me to the bones. Drawn on squares of the checkerboard I could make out an upside down crescent moon in the lower corner, and a thin, narrow isosceles triangle in the upper right corner. To my horror, I saw too, in the centre of the checkerboard was a yellow piece of parchment — upon which appeared to be resting ; a bleeding, severed human hand. I now realised with abhorrent terror that the red liquid pouring from the severed hand was the same texture of the symbols in the first room, they had indeed been inked in somebody’s blood. Victim currently unknown. The smell of death became suddenly more disconcerting.
At the back of the room, lining the entry to the bedroom there were two classic statues, of Ancient Greek appearance, depicting the forms of two voluptuous women. Immediately in front of me, at the foot of the doorway to the darkened room was a sigil— two circles joined together by a malignant double-U.
I was unable to process the other scattered objects at that time, so resolved to return to Kenny’s notes which would hopefully bring some clarity or closure as to the meaning of these horrific scenes.
Once more, I sat down at Kenny’s chair. I flicked through several lined note pads, until I found a diagrammatic illustration of some of the items in the other room. This did help provide context to at least some of the items in Kenny’s ritual. Nothing about the severed hand.
The illustrations were grotesque and horrific. The placement of items in the other room mimicked very closely the items in the illustration, but the labels didn’t provide much more than a superficial meaning to the display. The shield leaning against the left pillar, with the scorpion engraved on it was marked as ‘Soldier’s Shield from Motaris’, whilst the decorative axe leaning against the right pillar was labelled ‘The Axe of Sagron’. Scanning the other illustrations I saw that the W shaped sigil was revered as the ‘Sigil of the Star Diver’, whilst the two statues of naked women were labelled ‘The Godess of the Dawn’ and ‘The Sister of the Moon’ respectively. These sculptures were given particular significance—as an ethereal field between the feminine statues was labelled ‘The Gateway’.
Another marking got my attention, and I had to return to the darkened room to confirm its presence, because I hadn’t noticed it the first time. Sure enough, inlaid beside the checkered board there was a cornucopia wedged on a tripod from which fumes were emerging- grey streamers billoughing through the darkness. Based on the diagram I gathered that there was ritual incense burning in the cornucopia and that this was the origin of that strange smell I had noticed on first entering the apartment. Returning to the diagrams, I began to panic as I realised that the herbs burning in the cornucopia weren’t in fact incense as I had first deduced, but some form of hallucinogen— utilised to accelerate the heightened state required for completion of the ritual.
Instantly I started to feel light headed, wondering if the hallucinogen was already taking some effect upon me. I must have inhaled quite a large amount already, I covered my mouth with a handkerchief to create a temporary toxin mask.
Just then, my paranoia was exacerbated, as I heard a clanking noise at the front door. I shivered, my soul sinking. Had Kenny returned early and been granted a spare keycard from reception? I cowered beneath the door, my heart began to pound in my chest like a professional’s basketball. Once more the door latch quivered and shook as though somebody were jangling the latch on the other side. Finally a voice called out, it was a vibrato tone, female, with an Eastern European accent; ‘Mr Lothar? This is cleaning. Do you want the service? Clean sheets? Mr Lothar?’ I breathed a sigh of relief, and summoned the deepest voice I could; ‘No thank you. Busy thank you.’ The sound of trolley wheels slinking away indicated the woman had taken the hint.
I breathed heavily, trying to recuperate from the trauma. As I stumbled away from the door, suddenly I felt a terrible sensation within. I realised that the hallucinogens were indeed taking effect. My head throbbed, and my face grew red, filling with blood. Then my eyes began to mist up, and I felt my body growing weak— soon I fell to the carpet upon my knees.
My vision was drawn to the terrifying sight beyond the large glass window— framed by red, velvet curtains. Something had occurred outside. Something uncanny and horrific. The day had changed. The sun was gone. Nature had somehow leapt off its natural track of organic physics. That which we call daylight and night had lost dimensional form, and their aspect had merged with the vast indescribable void of the universe.
It is almost impossible to describe the hallucinations I saw outside that window, except to say that the Melbourne skyline was changing rapidly, in the nature of a time-lapse video. Architecture, once familiar became foreign and disorientating. It was as though I was watching the build up of human culture along the Yarra from a perspective outside of the usual constraints of time. I remembered from my history classes, that the aboriginal Wurundjeri tribes had called the Yarra river Birrarrung, meaning "Place of Mists and Shadows". Never did this description seem so apt, for what appeared to me now — a world only perceivable as a kind of fog of place. First, all of civilisation seemed to vanish, as indigenous tribes gathered beneath gum trees for their corroborees, then did I see white settlers, and British red coats come and conquer the land, then suddenly dark and futuristic sky scrapers leapt from the earth.
Now something happened that even further defied explanation. My body seemed to grow numb and limp, and collapsed upon the floor. The truly strange aspect however, was that I watched this happen, seemingly from outside my own body. I found myself now, somehow as a ghost inhabiting the space apparently outside of my usual physical and mental constraints.
As I looked around the hotel room, everything within seemed ominously different, red hued and sinister. Particularly a curious demonic glow originated from the other room where the ritualistic items had been laid out upon the floor. There was an odd electric energy coming from within that room now.
Most of all, there was a plainly visible force field of energy growing, like a vortex, between the statues of the two Greek Godesses. This vortex now seemed to open up, like a gateway—- onto a world with a red sky. Beyond the gate was an immense marble staircase leading downwards into some unknown ethereal city.
I summoned up the courage to journey through the gates, knowing that I was surely hallucinating from the unknown drug, but prepared to ride it out. I stepped down the strange marble steps, coming into an unknown, slightly futuristic city. Perhaps it was Melbourne in the future, I couldn’t discern with any confidence. There did seem to be some grand palace or castle where the Crown Casino had been, and Kings Road was marked by a distinct vibrant road built of shiny red bricks.
There were no cars, or streetlights- but all around were immense skyscrapers and modernist buildings made of glass and steel. The river water of the Yarra had apparently dried up completely. I soon stood on the ground where once the Waterside Workers Hotel had been, there was now only a curious labyrinth of white, marble stair cases leading up and down in a confused jumble of intention. For a moment I sat on the step, flustered and bewildered by the strange situation and the concrete real ness of my imaginary world. I felt the presence of a kind of grid of familiarity— stretching out on the horizon. I felt strange allures pulling me and enticing me onwards. I feared these forces, and yet could not deny them. There was an odd heat and humidity. Something was compelling me to descend further down upon the staircases, heading underground into the catacombs beneath this strange city. The further down I went, the more intense the heat became, until finally there appeared an open platform which looked out into a vast abyss of plateaued rock and raging flame.
Amidst the hades-like landscape in the lower caverns, my hallucinations now took full and plain form. Amidst the acreage of darkness and flame a titanic figure now came forward. The giant’s skin was lush crimson, and his naked body was taught and muscular, his head barely resembling some insectoid creature of earth. But the enormous, many sphered and barbed tail which swung from his buttocks, and his claw-like hands identified him as a giant humanoid scorpion of some form. The scorpion demon, who was half engulfed in flames now bent in the darkness, almost crouching in the opposite direction to me. I soon discerned that he was engaging to speak with another small figure, perched on a plateau of rock far out on the other side of the chasm.
Something even more peculiar happened then; my body suddenly seemed to go utterly limp. At first falling in an almost fainting motion, my mind suddenly faded as though into a dream-like place. I was no longer a walking human, but a floating invisible mass, a watching eyeball floating over the caverns of fire. Soon, I drifted and became the voyeur overlooking the terrible scorpion being, and as I grew closer I soon was able to view with clarity the other being he was talking to on the rocky plateau.
It was Kenny Lothar.
I tried to analyse my dream logic, obviously it made sense that I would hallucinate about Kenny, he was at the forefront of my mind due to the case. But as I began to overhear the conversation of the unlikeliest acquaintances, I marvelled at my mind’s fantastic longing.
‘The ritual is underway’, the sinister balding figure in sunglasses had stated. The immense flaming scorpion being flexed it’s muscular neck, and clamped it’s jaw, leering like an avalanche over Kenny; ‘Do you know what forces come to roost under cover of the red skies of Val Galais?’ Asked the scorpion in a booming voice. ‘My role is not to question the will of the beings outside the dome..’ Kenny replied cunningly; ‘Mine is only to serve.’ The giant red scorpion flushed its face and furrowed its brow in gesticulation; ‘That is a good answer, puny mortal. But I know that your species is incapable of acts that aren’t driven by the most base desires of personal gratification. You follow commands because you wish some of the glory of the coming age to be bestowed upon yourself. Confess it!’ ‘If I am to be gifted any fortune by supporting the armies of the winning side, should there be any discomfort in it?’ Kenny retorted, ‘All that matters is the end goal. Victory for the beings outside the dome!’ The scorpion glowed with wicked pride; ‘Yes! It is true. For the watcher is at hand, and the sacrifices are being made, piece by piece. The vultures move into place, and the shapeshifter reigns in the land of the setting sun. The dead armies shall hold back the forces of Tennylind and a new dark age shall Dawn’... I watched with fascination as my hallucinations played themself out. With intrigue I followed Kenny’s monologue as he spoke about his dark motives. I knew they were not real, just the product of my delirious brain trying to draw loose ends together.
Nonetheless, in my imagination Kenny Lothar began to explain to the horrific scorpion demon his back story in this hideous plot. He spoke of the corrupt police forces in NSW, and how they had gone underground during the Royal Commissions of the 1990’s. He spoke of secret meeting places in Bishop’s Valley, Bathurst, Canberra and Ballarat. Organisations united in a common purpose, to protect the agenda of corrupt white men; the Freemasons, the Druids guild, The order of the Red Seal, The Knights of the Roman Grid, The Future guard. He spoke of gangland killings, and shuffled ranks in the Victorian Police. In my dream, Kenny was not acting alone; but conducting his nefarious rituals for wealthy underground cults.
I knew the dream was becoming too absurd now, and like my mind was rejecting outright the state of being, I felt my ethereal self begin to drift and return to Kenny’s hotel room where I lay unconscious.
Strangely, however, my awareness of that perpendicular plane of existence didn’t utterly fade. I watched with my mind’s eye, as Kenny slowly ascended a labyrinth of marble staircases, until at last it appeared as if I was watching —as Kenny exited the elevator of the hotel. He seemed to walk in a tangent universe just beside my own, walking alongside his hotel room. I was now floating above my own body, which lay unconscious on the hotel floor, as Kenny entered through the vortex of colour.
But something was magnificently wrong. Surely, I thought, I was still hallucinating. Yet, why did the room look so enchantingly similar and yet different? As I floated above as an ethereal mist, I noticed that all the ritualistic paraphernalia lay in the adjacent room exactly as it had —- with only one minor difference....
The decapitated hand was no longer placed ceremoniously on the parchment in the middle of the checkered floor. Nor were the strange three symbols painted in blood in various locations in the room where my body lay unconscious. With infinite terror, my mind started to leap to horrorible conclusions. Kenny was rubbing his skin, as if coated in a thin layer of goo. He appeared to be adjusting to his transition back into this reality. How absurd this dream was becoming, I thought to myself.
With malice, Kenny now begun to pace around the dark room, as if checking the artefacts for his ritual. He then raced to his desk, checking over his notes, and reading furiously. I tried to move my body, or wake from slumber, but I remained trapped in that elusive immaterial dream space.
I continued to watch paralysed. Kenny now turned in his chair with terrible and malevolent purpose. Returning quickly to the other room, he appeared to see something. I watched with horror now, as he came back into the main room holding the decorated Axe from the ritual. I began to curse under my breath with fear, as Kenny methodically approached my unconscious body. He had the most sadistic look of glee in his eyes, and malice on his lips, as he grinned with yellowing teeth.
With one sharp movement, Kenny raised the heavy axe above his head, then with a movement as swift as light, the heavy metal carved through the flesh and bone of my left hand. Although still detached from my body, I somehow still felt a piercing pain in my wrist, that ached like swollen agony, and throbbed with pain, yet I had no mouth to scream.
Satanically satisfied, Kenny squatted next to my decapitated hand, extending two fingers and dipping them into my freshly drawn blood. Time seemed to flash forward, or backwards as Kenny timelapsed around the room, creating the strange symbols on the walls and floor which I had investigated. Then returning the bloody Axe to the pillar it was resting against, and moving my gored and grotesque severed hand into place on the parchment on the middle of the checkered floor. Somehow this all made some terrible sense in my dreaming mind, that I had perhaps become a part of Kenny’s terrible ritual.
That was then. This all stands now, only as some sort of curious dream. The severing of my hand, I can speak about with certainty. For when I awoke in a hospital bed, my left arm was nothing more than a stump. Mercifully the doctors stopped the blood loss, and probably saved my life, though how I got from Kenny’s hotel room to there, I’ll never know.
It’s been a significant period of recovering, and for now, the investigation of Kenny Lothar is on hold. Right now I am too fearful for my well being to continue.
However, I feel this will not be the last time I have a run in with that dangerous and reprehensible character. (This is the second story surrounding Private Investigator P.Dronefire. You can read the first story 'The Cockroaches Between the Clues' at 'The Weird Fiction of Goitye Powerhouse)
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