Premier Daniel Andrews has announced a special taskforce of 500 police to enforce a shutdown of pubs, clubs and other venues and restrictions on social gatherings. submitted by
- The Premier said Victorians had been "acting selfishly" by flouting social distancing rules
- Teachers are planning online learning for if schools close for term two, after the term one was brought to a close early
- Police will conduct spot checks to ensure people are complying with the shutdown
It comes as Victoria recorded another 59 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the state's total to 355.
The announcement follows the Prime Minister's declaration yesterday that venues across the country would have to close from midday today
to curb the spread of coronavirus.
While the National Cabinet agreed on the shutdown together, it was up to the individual states and territories to put the measures into law.
The "stage one" shutdown in Victoria includes pubs, clubs, nightclubs, Crown Casino, gyms, indoor sporting venues, places of worship, cinemas and entertainment venues.
Restaurants and cafes will only be allowed to provide home delivery or takeaway services. Bottleshops can remain open.
Mr Andrews told ABC Radio Melbourne any business not on the list could stay open, as long as it adhered to social-distancing measures such as ensuring there is 4 square metres for each person on the premises.
Indoor gatherings are still limited to fewer than 100 people.
Mr Andrews said many Victorians had been "acting selfishly" by ignoring social-distancing rules, and warned "people will die" if the measures were not followed.
He told ABC Radio Melbourne stricter measures were likely to be enforced after the next National Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
What must close in Victoria:
- Pubs, clubs, hotels, bars and nightclubs that supply alcohol under a general licence (but bottleshops, takeaway meals and accommodation can continue)
- Indoor sporting centres
- "A cinema, nightclub or entertainment venue of any kind"
- Restaurants and cafes (but takeaways and deliveries can continue)
- Places of worship (but weddings and funerals can continue)
The Premier flagged a shutdown of "non-essential" services yesterday afternoon
, ahead of a meeting of the National Cabinet last night.
He today denied suggestions his statement on Sunday caused confusion and panic, saying "this is not static. This is moving fast".
Mr Andrews acknowledged it was "frustrating and challenging" that the advice was changing.
"But it's nowhere near as challenging as people doing the wrong thing, and then we have 10,000 people who can only survive if they have a machine to help them breathe and we don't have enough machines and doctors to get that done."
Schools prepare for online learning in case of shutdown
Mr Andrews yesterday announced the school term would end at the end of the school day today, rather than at the end of the week as originally scheduled.
The National Cabinet last night agreed to keep schools open across the country.
"Term two is scheduled to begin on April 14, unless I have medical advice not to proceed with term two," Mr Andrews said this morning.
But he said: "I'm not making that announcement today."
Tuesday will be a pupil-free day for teachers to plan for online learning in the event schools need to remain closed beyond the school holidays.
Childcare centres and kindergartens are deemed essential services under the shutdown measures.
"But this is step one. There will be further announcements to be made," Mr Andrews said.
Police able to fine, detain, arrest
Police and authorised officers will also be enforcing a mandatory self-isolation period for anyone entering Victoria from overseas
Under Victoria's state of emergency legislation, those breaking the rules face fines of nearly $20,000 for individuals and nearly $100,000 for businesses.
Mr Andrews warned the closure of pubs was not an invitation to have large gatherings at home.
He said last week, one person at a dinner party had coronavirus and by the end of the evening almost everyone had contracted the virus.
"This spreads rapidly. If you act selfishly people will die," he said.
"Many people are doing the right thing and I'm grateful to them."
Mr Andrews said it was people's "civic duty" to distance themselves from others.
He told ABC Radio Melbourne that the Government was arranging temporary accommodation for people experiencing an escalation in domestic violence because they were forced to stay at home
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said police saw "quite a number of breaches in relation to indoor gatherings" over the weekend.
"We are upping the ante … this is such a significant issue in terms of people's lives, Victoria Police will have a dedicated team tasked with doing those spot checks and making sure people are following the rules in terms of social gatherings," she said.
"Police have the power to fine you, arrest you, detain you and they will use those powers where needed in the interest of community safety."
Mr Andrews said nobody had been fined or charged for disobeying the self-isolation rules.
Supermarkets, shopping centres stay open
Under the stage one shutdown, shopping centres can remain open.
Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne's east, which is the largest complex in Australia, said only 10 stores out of more than 550 had closed on Monday morning.
"Our centres continue to trade as normal. The Federal Government has made it clear shopping centres continue to provide an essential service to our community," a spokesman said in a statement.
The shutdown is in place until midnight on April 13, but Mr Andrews said it was "highly likely" it would be extended beyond that.
The Government yesterday announced emergency relief packages would be provided to those in self-isolation
On Friday, the Victorian Farmers Federation said the state had "plenty of food"
and told those who were panic-buying to "settle your farm". Full article from ABC news
I looked at the man with unwilling disdain, he was hardly the most approachable character. In the background I could see staff miserably toiling, the sun was hot, and the men looked dirty and overworked.
'So...' Fortyn Kildare insisted, 'Like I said. All the information about the murder was provided at the time. What exactly are you hoping to dig up now??'
‘Well there’s nothing TO dig up’ I smiled, ‘The body was dumped in plain sight. I don’t really need any information about the death Mr Kildare. Have you had anyone suspicious working on your staff in the past two years?’ ‘As I told the bloody cops—’ Fortyn cursed; ‘Every cunt that works here is suspect. We’re working twelve hour days here Mr investigator. Don’t suspect you know what this kind of work is like, but this isn’t exactly the best job out there. We attract all kinds here.’
I had to squint temporarily from the glare of the sun bouncing off a metal girder.
‘Don’t you have some kind of a union Mr Kildare?’. Fortyn glared menacingly, then leant over to speak more softly; ‘Too right we do. Matter of fact, there’s been a lot of action lately. Just like the old days you know. Well, they’re trying to pull a shifty on the working class again.’ ‘Oh yeah, really?’ I prompted. ‘Damn straight it is…Ever since Howard’s work choices, these new contractual cheats, you can sign a form that agrees to just about anything. They’ve got fake companies set up to take care of the unions, and we’re all working twelve hours. If you complain they’ll send you off site, or sack you. My great, great grandfather was there at the rallies— back in 1856 —when the Stonemasons won the eight hour day you know. They think they can pull the wool over our eyes, but we’re regrouping. Just like the old days, down at the docks. In the casino’s. The Unions are coming back. You better fuckin’ believe it—— What’s wrong with that eh?’
I could see that Fortyn Kildare was not going to be particularly helpful, and his tangent interests showed pretty clearly that he knew absolutely nothing about the murder. I didn’t want to waste my ten minutes, before Pex escorted from the premises, but I asked Kildare one last question for good measure, ‘Have you ever heard about Slaughter Theatre— Mr Kildare?’ The ocker man almost spat the words ‘NO!’ at me, and I quickly consoled the impatient mullet donning gruff that I wasn’t going to take up any more of his time; ‘Thanks for your help’.
I walked slowly in a maudlin fashion back towards the front fences, as other tradies had begun hollering and leering at me….trudging over dirt and loose stones. I couldn’t think of much else to look at, the exhausted workers around me didn’t seem worth bothering. My own inner monologue was echoing the sentiment expressed by Drendyl Pex— that this pursuit was little more than a wild donkey chase. A mad conspiracy theory. Nonetheless, what Pex had said about the two crimes displaying traits of a potential serial killer had got me thinking, and I realised I needed to get home and do some more research on the press surrounding the Alice Goddard murder.
As I was walking out the gate, I noticed the receptionist, (who was apparently not a receptionist) smoking a cigarette out on the street, and my sleuth’s intuition told me it was worth staying for one last round of questioning. I approached her calmly. ‘Let me guess, Vogue menthol thins.’ The woman turned, breathing out smoke and pouting, the thin white cigarette in her hand fell down to her side; ‘How did you guess?’ She asked. ‘Ex smokers hunch.’ I replied, ‘I have a sixth sense when it comes to horoscopes and cigarette brands. It comes with constant investigation. You get to know people’s types.’ ‘Is that right?’ The woman responded amused but cynical, ‘What star sign am I then?’ ‘Judging from what i’ve seen of you’ I said thoughtfully, ‘I’d say Gemini, there’s more to you than there seems.’ The woman raised her eyebrow, partially impressed; “May twenty. Just off the mark Mr Dronefire. But you were close. My mother always told me I was a cusp Taurus.’ ‘Ms Weabley isn’t it?’ I checked. ‘Lisa’ she replied, holding out her hand in an informal re-greeting. ‘Mr Pex tells me you work in occupational health and safety here. So you must have a pretty good handle on what’s occurred on and off this site.’ ‘Listen Mr Dronefire, you really ought to speak to Mr Pex in regards to—‘ ’Mr Pex told me I could speak to you, I assure you, this place is not under investigation. Actually I was just wondering if you’d ever seen a film crew working on the site. Maybe a stupid question.’ ‘Huh?’, Lisa changed her tone drastically, ’Now…. why would you ask that?’ ‘I’m trying to track down someone who may have shot a video here.’ I continued, ‘You have had a film crew here then?’
‘Yes. I mean…’ Ms Weabley stuttered and thought for a moment, she had a strangely compelling face, especially when deep in thought, mousey blond hair falling over her creased forehead… ‘We do promotional marketing. Social media videos.. and….’ ‘—Would you have had any film crew in the yards any time near July last year?’ I asked. ‘Yes.’ Lisa replied anxiously, ‘We were particularly active mid last year, then it slowed down, didn’t film anything September till Christmas.’ ‘Do you have a regularly production crew you work with?’ ‘Not right now….No…but…’ Lisa contemplated it, ‘We did have a specific crew back then. Sure. Hey… I can send you the production call sheet with the contacts of everyone who worked on those jobs, will that help?’ ‘Brilliant, yes. Thank you Ms Weabley.’ We exchanged contact details and I returned to my car, shortly I was back in the air conditioning of my Valiant Charger, on the road for an afternoon drink in Fitzroy. I had a taste for that rum Mr Pex had given me, and managed to track one down at the old rum house, Gunnery white spiced. Seven rums later and the investigation had pleasantly left my mind.
Dreams of falling men in suits, alien flowers and twisting vines tangled in a web. Monday morning and my paranoia was back in full force, when the email from Lisa Weabley showed up in my inbox.
The call sheet Ms Weabley sent was amateurish and brief, but it did give me a list of people to call.
I spent that morning dialling numbers. There was no director listed, which I found marginally strange. The cameraman, Mark Virafi must have changed his number in the past year, because the number listed on the call sheet had a disconnected Telstra message, or it was bad data entry. Next on the list was an editor, by the name of Lumborg Hames. I didn’t get through the first or second time I called. Left a bunch of voice mail messages and texts, and finally got a call back around lunch time. He was a very softly spoken guy, definitely your introverted, creative type. I told him a simple version of my background to the case, and he agreed to meet up for a chat in a Richmond cafe. He lived on Gwynne St in Cremorne, down towards the water. From my understanding it was only a short distance from Stephenson Street where notorious criminal Dennis Allen once lived.
I met with Lumborg Hames on Tuesday. I was sitting in the Red Dog cafe, and i’d grown starving before Mr Hames arrived, so I ordered a big breakfast. When Lumborg arrived I was hoeing into a bacon and hash brown sandwich covered in baked beans. Mr Hames stood awkwardly around for a while, looking back and forth nervously until I noticed him and called out; ‘Mr Hames?’.
He was a big guy, very wide in girth, having what some might describe as a ‘neck beard’, a fluffy coating over numerous chins, and his beady-but-kind eyes looked out of round glasses. He was wearing the sort of cheesy comedy T-shirt you might have found at Granny May’s in the nineties, text said something dumb like ‘Whatever you want. The answer is NO’. Lumborg nervously sat in front of me, and I apologised for ordering before he arrived, but he told me in his wafting soft voice that he had already eaten. When the waitress came over he ordered a coffee, and I followed his lead. ‘Thanks for coming Mr Hames, I do appreciate you giving me your time. I know you're probably a busy editor.’ ‘Not really’ Lumborg confessed, almost too candidly, ‘I work freelance, between jobs at the moment, so…..i’ve got time.’ There was an awkward silence, where I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feign empathy, or just pretend like his job insecurity was normal. Luckily Lumborg quickly broke the silence; ‘Sooo…. You want to know about when I was working at the Three Vertice construction company I guess?’ ’Sort of…’ I replied, not even a hundred percent sure what I was doing myself here yet;
‘But first… humour me… Have you ever heard of something called ‘Slaughter Theatre’ Mr Hames?’ The robust and timid man, suddenly perked up in his seat, his large belly almost jiggling somewhat, ‘Ha… well I didn’t think this chat would get so interesting so quickly. Sure, I know about the trilogy. I work in production, it’s like workers lore.’ ‘You think it’s real?’ I asked directly, feeling my way into Mr Hames psychological profile. ‘Pssssh…No.’ Hames said, ‘If only. No……i’ve never seen any of the alleged footage if that’s what you’re asking. Although i’ve heard plenty of rumours,…worked with people who claim to have seen it…worked on it….’ ‘Interesting. When you were working at Three Vertice construction company did anyone mention Slaughter Theatre?’ I continued... ‘Huh?’ Hames looked at me curiously, ‘Funny you should ask that. Well…first up.. I should tell you, I never actually went to Three Vertice Construction yards.' 'What?' 'I was working on editing some test filming they were doing, that much is true. But everything I did was based out of Hapless Creative Studios in Brunswick. That’s the production company who outsourced freelance editors for the Three Vertice job. I mean, I saw a lot of the construction yards, I watched the same footage about a million times over, you know. But physically I never set foot there.’ ‘Right,’ I said, not having considered this, ‘But you were in contact with other production staff? You must have dealt with Mark Virafi, the cameraman, at least…. i’m guessing?’ ‘Oh sure. Mark came in all the time, to give me the SD cards with the footage on them… you know…’ ‘It’s funny’, I said, ‘I couldn’t get through to him, Mark, I mean…do you know if he’s changed his number?’ ‘I haven’t spoken to Mark in over a year, actually….I ….heard something ….happened to him….. earlier in the year. A car accident or something.’ I tried to trace my line of reasoning for being here, had to keep drilling if I was going to hit oil; ‘What about Drendyl Pex, did you ever meet him?’ ‘The Director?’ Lumborg asked? ‘No…' I replied skeptically, 'The owner….. of Three Vertice Construction.’ ‘Oh…. right…’ Lumborg gave a strange look, ‘To be honest, the moment you asked me about Slaughter Theatre my mind went somewhere else. See the truth is, I…… I did have massive conversations about Slaughter Theatre whilst I was working on the construction videos. You…probably… should speak to my friend Ted Stevens… my understanding… he’s worked for …Mr…Pex quite a bit in the past— in fact that’s how I got the job at TVC in the first place. Ted lives in Richmond not far from here, I can take you round to his place, i’ve been meaning to visit him for a while—to see if he’s got any work going—‘ ‘That would be great.. Do you think you could call him now?’ ‘Sure…. um…’ Lumborg was strangely and increasingly hesitant, pulling out his old school mobile phone, then pausing and lowering it again; ‘…you’re not squeamish or anything are you?’ ‘How do you mean?’ I asked. ‘Well— it’s just. Ted, and his partner, the company they run….. well it’s kind of a porn company. There’s a good chance they’ll be filming and…. well I just wouldn’t want you to feel weird about—‘ ’That’s fine— I have no problem with that…‘
That afternoon turned out to bear strange fruits indeed. I drove, whilst Lumborg directed me to the house, (and home office studio) of Ted Stevens and Dorothy Lench, an odd and highly eccentric Melbourne couple I was about to learn way more about than I ever bargained for. They lived on a fairly well to do street of Richmond, with nice terrace houses lining the leafy streets. As we left the vehicle Lumborg told me that he had called Ted, and they were expecting me, but he suddenly grew strangely timid, and it took a moment to draw it out of him, he was anxious about being on a pornography set, and wanted to know if it was ok if he left me to it. Of course, I consented him to depart, and shortly I was knocking on the strange ornate door, with the delicately carved metal knocker shaped like the logo for the 1992 ‘Bram Stoker Dracula’ film.
I heard shuffling footsteps slowly coming to the door, and finally the mahogany opened to reveal a strange man, with a quiff of black hair with a grey streak, a pink nightgown, slightly open to reveal a hairy chest…. and bunny slippers; ‘Oh helloooo…. you must be Mr Dronefire? I’ve just been speaking to Lumborg…’ the man observed. ’Ted Stevens?’ I asked confounded, not expecting a man of this…. calibre to answer the door. ‘Marvelous…. an actual private investigator… what a fantastic character study..’ Ted said… ‘We have P.I’s in our productions all the time, but i’ve never met a real one… Dorothy? Dorothy?? You have to come and meet our real life— Private Dick…’ A feminine voice called out from a room far down the long hallway, and shortly thereafter a bright, and sprightly figure hopped and scampered down the hallway, she was wearing a costume straight out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, puffy red skirt and fishnet stockings. Dorothy Lench had far less enthusiasm in her face however, she pouted mysteriously, but her eyes scrunched up in a kind of scowl. ‘Whadda we need a P.I for? We’re shooting a bleedin’ outback scene, it’s a bloody desert fuck…not a noir….’ ‘Im terribly sorry..’ I interjected, ‘I hope i’m not interrupting your work. I’m doing some inquiries into an urban legend surrounding a series of videos——’ ’Oooh fuck me…’ Dorothy burst out laughing, ‘He is a real Private Dick isn’t he. Mandy, what’d’you think of our new Dick?’ A voluptuous blonde, naked from the waist up, with thick, heavenly hair bobbing around her shoulders was now walking up the hallway. I felt my eyes drop nervously to the floor, enchanted by the bare woman’s beauty, as she came closer, her features grew more and more recognisable. Ted meanwhile had draped a long, fluffy scarf around me like he was decorating a christmas tree, his large grin showed an innate mischieviousness, and the freckles on his face added to this impishness; ‘Forgive us, we get terribly excited when we have guests on set. Production can be very stressful, you understand, we work hard, we play hard. Now Mandy, I think you are making our friend here VERY hard.’ I blushed, unable to contain my secret awareness silent; ‘Forgive me. uh….madam… But you’re Mandy, from the “Mandy is randy Down Under” series, aren’t you?’ I blushed. ‘Mandy Thumbridge.’ The buxom blonde stated proudly, ‘You’re a fan of my work?’ ‘I’m aware of the—’ I confessed. ‘Oh come now—‘ Ted scolded, leaping about the room like a mad pixie, ‘Be honest young man, it’s ok to admit to watching pornography. Besides this woman is an artist. You needn’t be ashamed to confess that you like art. Need you now?’ ‘She’s a wonderful actress’ I allowed. ’She’s a goddess` Ted elaborated, ‘All we school boys can do is worship, at the altar of Venus…’ as Ted Spoke, Dorothy Lench had returned to the room carrying an actual carving of the Greek Goddess, placing it in the centre of the hallway, the two mad producers then proceeded to dance around the statue in their grotesque costumes. Mandy Thumbridge, the porn star, meanwhile crossed her arms over her bare chest and turned a mocking expression and lippy pout. She was pure eroticism, I found I had to avert my gaze continually.
Ted was evidently quite high, and had become totally distracted, both from his work, and from my investigation, and he was now completely absorbed in his strange ritualistic dance around the statue of Venus. As he chanted, and mimicked cliche native American gestures, he murmured strange turns of phrase, which sounded as though they had come out of an abandoned script for some demented horror production; ‘Gods, pixies and elves, dancers on the periphery of our imagination, we are married to the Goddess of lust, bring us our givings, before ol’ Cronus, god of time cuts our days short, and ends this marvellous Saturnalia, ho….hum… ho…hum…. Shiva the destroyer, grant us this day of sin….’ ‘Excuse me—‘ I interrupted, quite fed up with the parlour games, ‘I certainly don’t want to rain on your parade, but i’m afraid the reason for my visit is a rather sombre one. I’m investigating two murders which occurred in the last two years.’ Ted and Dorothy stopped their joyous dance, and came to a standstill, as Mandy scrambled to put on a bra. ‘Well… that’s a bit of a buzzkill, isn’t it?’ Ted scoffed. ‘Mr Stevens’ I asked impatiently, ‘Are you aware of rumours surrounding a snuff video known as ‘Slaughter Theatre’ or the Slaughter Theatre trilogy. A cold expression suddenly took over everyone’s faces, Ted grimaced and Dorothy began to lurk in the background. ‘Well…. of course we have…. Mandy learned about death that way, didn’t you babe?’ Ted commented rather coldly and cruelly. The beautiful Miss Thumbridge suddenly burst into tears, and covered her face with her hands, retreating to one of the other rooms. I could gather the momentum to do little else than stare spellbound.
‘I’m afraid that’s a rather sore subject matter Mr Dick’ said Ted, as he and Dorothy fell into a faux traumatic hug with one another.
I indicated with a gesture that I was going to follow Miss Thumbridge and ask her some questions; ‘Do you mind if I—‘ Dorothy and Ted both waved their hands as if to tie their hands from it, ‘Go ahead’ Ted said anxiously.
As I walked down the hallway I could see a large production set in the far room, filled with cardboard cutouts of cactuses and other cliche desert backgrounds. I could hear sobbing emanating from one of the side rooms, and moved to open the door. The room I entered was also decked out as a kind of film set; a science fiction style scene of alien geography of a foreign planet, with a lush queen sized bed out of place in the middle of the mars-like terrain. The walls and roof were black, with recognisable stars and planets in the background. Mandy was sitting on the expensive pink bed and weeping profoundly. I was relieved to see that she had covered up.
I sat next to her on the bed; ‘Miss Thumbridge’ I said gently, ‘I’m very sorry that you obviously have something deeply sad which has affected you. But I must push you, as two young women have been murdered, and anything you know about this snuff trilogy may help get to the bottom of the crimes.’ Mandy looked up through large, manga eyes, her face flushed and covered in tears; ‘Of course I want to help’ she sobbed. ‘You obviously have some kind of story about this.. you worked on—‘ ‘— I don’t know if it was a body… you see all kinds of things on set. You don’t always ask questions. Especially when you’re a naughty picture actress. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a real part, where you don’t have to take your top off and perform oral sex, y’know?’ ‘What pictures are you talking about Mandy?’ I asked, ‘You feel like you saw something unusual on one of the sets you worked on?’ ‘I don’t really feel comfortable talking about it’ Mandy looked down coyly. ‘Just give me something to work on Mandy, anything? The name of the people who filmed you. Something…’ I begged. ’It was…. i’m sorry… i’m sorry… I can’t… Talk to Ted and Dorothy… they know as much as me…. please….’ Mandy burst into tears again, and I rubbed her back consolingly, then quietly, I departed the bizarre outer-space set.
Ted and Dorothy were now sitting on couches in the main foyer, their body language had become closed and they were no longer happy or enthusiastic looking. I walked into the centre of the foyer, trying to appear vulnerable. ‘Mandy is very upset, but she seems to think that the two of you might be in a better position to tell me about whatever compromising scenario she was placed in on one of the sets.’ Ted looked at Dorothy with appreciable mental strain, both were not liking the angle of questioning, so I tried to take an alternate route to the destination, interrupting their thoughts; ‘You two are married, or in an open relationship? I don’t mean to pry….’ The question worked perfectly, exactly as I had hoped. The two clearly thrived on sexual controversy, and loved nothing more than to gloat their eccentricities to a conservative audience; ‘Typical assumption you’d expect from a CIS white male, unfortunately Ted and I don’t fit so neatly into your census form boxes.’ ‘My partner Dorothy identifies as gender fluid, bisexual,’ Ted said proudly and pretentiously; ‘And as for myself, I mostly prefer the description of Pan——sexual, if one must have a sexual tag-line at all. I’d suggest that your prejudiced question itself was an act of violence… but no doubt you’d brand me a social justice warrior, and jump online with your white supremacist friends, or bring your thug cronies around to lynch us, or brand us satanic pornographers and call the police.’ ‘Mr Stevens, I meant no offence.’ I said, ‘I only ask, because i’m interested in Mandy. Do you often participate in the sexual acts in your films yourselves? Is Mandy frequently called to engage with unknown actors or actresses.’ ‘Everything we do at our studio is extremely safe…’ Ted snapped, my plan was working, ‘We have never compromised our actors or actresses, or made them do anything that wasn’t stated clearly in their contracts when they agreed to work… as for other studios, Pex and his crew… I have no responsibility for what happens.’ ‘I’m sorry…’ I asked, ‘Drendyl Pex?’ ‘Sure.’ Ted said without thinking, ‘You didn’t know he was a director? Surely you must have realised that Three Vertice Construction was a front for other business ventures.’ ‘Drendyl Pex works in the porn industry?’ I asked. ‘Drendyl Pex runs the porn industry…’ Ted affirmed with vitriol. ‘And Mandy, she’s worked for Drendyl…’ ‘Listen….’ Ted said standing up, ‘I’m very happy to help a friend of Lumborg Hames, but I don’t think i’m going to be able to help much more with your line of questioning.’
Slowly, but surely, Ted escorted me to the front door, as Dorothy ignored me, and sobbing still reverberated through walls —from the other room.
I left the Stevens house feeling even more highly strung and on edge.
The next few months were an all consuming blur, fully strung up on the case, I investigated every avenue of intrigue I could. I spoke to countless people in the creative industry who were inadvertently linked to Drendyl Pex. There were many rumours and bizarre stories about the eccentric secret head of the vice industry in Australia. Legends had Drendyl Pex known to wear velvet capes, and strange masks during his directorial stints, orgies and wild parties.
I spoke to someone who had worked on scripts for Drendyl Pex’s production company, the bizarre horror stories had grotesqueries straight out of the Grand Guignol. Every mention of the plots created by Pex’s crew, never failed to embellish the perversity, utter distastefulness and horrendously realistic gore depicted in the films.
Nonetheless, I grew tired of all the hapless hearsay. So many accounts presented the facts of the trilogy, as something that could and had been found, countless times, in second hand stores or on the shelves of private VHS collectors. So I began to spend my weekends trawling through garage sales all over Melbourne, I called private collectors, searching through their immense VHS and DVD collections. I met the owners of ex-video store rentals, went to reverse garbage yards and pawn shops, but never once came across the mysterious VHS tape emblazoned with red letters.
I knew I was getting close to the truth, but something about the things I was learning made me abysmally afraid. Another strange occurrence happened when I showed up at a media industry party. I had attended the event only because I knew certain people who were connected to Pex’s alleged productions were going to be there. Ted Stevens brother was there, Gerald, a producer, also a number of actors who had worked in the same pornography films as Mandy Thumbridge.
It was a costume party, rave, in a secret nightclub decked out in the third floor of the heritage-listed, historic, Royal Exhibition building. As I walked through highly intoxicated and drug addled crowds at the rave I was awestruck by the bizarre costumes and ornate antique decorations adorning the hall. I passed a couple dressed as Azaria Chamberlain and a full-sized man-dingo costume, then came a group of Australian Prime ministers, their intricate plastic masks were quite impressive; Bob Hawke, Robert Menzies, Gough Whitlam. Electronic music played as I walked through the crowds, trying to observe whilst still blending in, a group of drunken louts had noticed me and were laughing and pointing, their costumes; a biker, a soldier, an indigenous warrior and a doctor —resembled a kind of Village People ensemble, all the while strobe lights provided a sinister ambience. One of the girls the village people men were with was wearing a Madonna style cone shaped bra, and was drawing a lot of hollering, wolf whistling and attention towards her. Meanwhile, a g-string donning Hitler was sitting on the bar, bearing fishnet stocking clad legs and talking to a group dressed as the Bali Bombers, and behind them there seemed to be the entrance to a much seedier part of the club.
I had seen Gerald Stevens earlier, along with other producers and creatives, but many of them had disappeared, and I began to think that perhaps Pex’s creatives were lurking somewhere out in the back of the club. I wasn’t sure if I would be permitted to enter, sure enough, as I tried to make my way, a solid looking gentleman dressed all in black blocked my way. ’Sorry sir, it’s invite only in our VIP section’. I tried the only argument that sprung to mind ‘I work for Drendyl Pex’ I said as confidently as I could. This actually seemed to work. The man barely questioned it at all, stepping aside and allowing me to pass through without identification.
What I found beyond the gates was more extreme and otherworldly than I had foreseen. The guests were similarly clad in outrageous costume, but there was much less casual reverie, and a lot more bizarre ritual in the back rooms. A woman dressed as an S&M fetishist whipped a cut-covered man dressed as Jesus on the cross. A group of Australian convicts with their legs bound in iron chains were similarly whipped by naked porn stars. Beyond the arches of the room, more pornography was being filmed on old style cameras. There were elaborate glass cubes attached to the ceiling, acting as erotic dance stages, where strippers holding multiple machine guns entertained jeering men beneath. My mind focussed in on a particular corner of the room, which was decked out like a gothic castle, sitting on red leather chairs, a group of men dressed as army officers were harassing a young and innocent looking school girl, who didn’t seem a natural fit to the scenes of debauchery around her.
I approached the soldiers cautiously, eaves-dropping on their conversation with the innocent looking girl. At first the conversation seemed typical enough, the soldiers egging the girl on, trying to persuade her into participate in something, perhaps some kind of illicit act. ‘Come on, please.’ They taunted and begged. But then a more sinister undertone came across in the conversation, that the nature of what the men wanted the girl to participate in became all the more menacing. Wether or not the suggested role play was linked to anything I had learned or not, suggestions that the girl be the soldiers ‘sacrifice’ to the god of dark matter, was more than I could take.
I shortly intervened, grabbing the girl by the arm and escorting her out of the strange party. She was annoyed at first, almost struggling, but later she seemed relieved I had given her the means to escape the uncomfortable scenario. Her name was Wendy Soames. I felt astoundingly like an overbearing father figure, but as I probed the girl about what the men had wanted her to do, and she explained that they were trying to get her to film herself being naked and being sacrificed in some sort of mock snuff film, I felt relieved I had acted as I did. I helped the girl to a cab, and solemnly contemplated things.
Back at home that night, I found even more to dwell upon.
I had been re-examining the files given to me by my private client. It was part of an old case I had been working on, the client who had wanted me to look into the murder in St Kilda was the same client who had wanted me to investigate a corrupt police officer by the name of Kenny Lothar. They were paying big money. What I was looking at now, was evidence that suggested a link between Kenny Lothar and Officer Barrington, my police contact, given that Barrington had supplied me with the details about Drendyl Pex, this was all starting to induce my paranoia. Could Barrington be linked to the exact police corruption he was adamantly preaching about? I had also found evidence that Pex was only a small time player in something much bigger, that he was on the payroll of very high income corporate players in Australia and abroad, big American media and gambling personalities, tycoons worth more than the Packers.
I had the most dreadful sense of peripeteia.
Rushing out that night, I had to learn the truth, had to find more information about Drendyl Pex, and his seedy company.
I knew I had to drive out to the construction site in Footscray that night. Which is precisely what I did.
The lines on the highway flew by in ominous and precise beats. A pyramid of tarmac stretched out endlessly before me.
Finally I arrived at Three Vertice construction.
Scaling the fence, I entered the empty yards, resolving to break into any of Pex’s various office spaces and search for some convincing evidence that rumours about Pex were true.
The yards were dark, and shadows played tricks on my mind. In a stark moment I was sure I had seen a masked and cloaked figure swish by in the darkness towards a precarious tower overlooking the tallest hills of the yard.
I broke into the trailer I had been in with Pex previously, rifling through drawers and sacking cupboards, but I found little of interest. Wherever Pex kept his paperwork, it wasn’t here.
Finding nothing, the strange tower on the hill returned to my memory, and possessed or infantile I walked zombie like back down the muddy slopes towards the silhouetted tower against the near full moon.
Quickly and anxiously my hands found the steel rungs of the ladder, and the clinking metal echoed as I climbed.
I tried hard not to look down at the long drop, into the oddly placed vat of wet cement beneath me. Continuing up the rungs of the tower, until I was nearly at the top. Finally I met my destiny, climbing into the dark space at the top of the tower.
I could see nothing in the darkness. Hear nothing, but my heart palpitating in my chest, and my heavy breath rasping wildly.
I felt the pain, before I heard the sound. It all happened so quickly, my thoughts only registered three facts; my fingers covered in blood as I reached at the holes in my chest. The darkness, no face, nothing visible — except the silver ---of a police issued handgun, shining in the darkness.
I was already unconscious by the time my plummeting body hit the wet cement beneath. Sinking into oblivion. Read more of the exploits of Pharlap Dronefire P.I here; https://www.reddit.com/libraryofshadows/comments/7izl7a/the_melbourne_ritual/
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