Learning to kill.
The ground was soddened with a mixture of water, blood, manure and moss. Robert felt it all between his toes as he stumbled through the field. He’d be on his way to the bathroom if it wasn’t for his dad Charlie yelling at him to hold up. Robert was very keen on learning how to kill.
“Hang on mate” … Charlie was struggling to catch up to Robert, as the young calf was more difficult than he first thought, and it didn’t seem very keen to die.
“I have to have a wee,” said Robert with a sense of bladder urgency that can override all other feelings. “Come on dad, hurry up”
“Ok, off you go, tell Sally to come and see me” … Charlie smiled as he continued to drag, coerce, all the while pleading with the calf to follow him up the hill.
The house sat on top of the small hill and proudly offered its 360-degree view of the valley that was Mupps Farm in northern NSW. The smallholding yard was next to the “meat hut”, which housed two walk-in cool rooms and ten very large chest freezers. The “meat hut” was just a nickname, as it was actually an approved slaughter, meat processing structure licensed by NSW Food Authority and the local Council. The air conditioning and refrigeration units could have cooled the entire community in Mullimboy.
The power for this scar upon the Earth was provided by a bank of solar panels with a backup battery system, cutting edge environmentally friendly technology. As much as it could be while it slaughtered animals. That was another thing that seemed incredibly out of place in Mullimboy.
Charlie, the proud son of a sixties hippy took over the family farm when his parents died. The farm was originally a serene place, respecting the Earth and striving to live and leave a minimal footprint philosophy. This had changed with Charlie’s arrival and it became a cover for other activities. The farm had a few operations and young Robert was learning each one as he grew. He was a young boy learning how to kill.
Sally was Robert’s mother in her role only. She ran a very tight, well fed, organically charged household that basically propped up the facade of the area’s required footprint and image. The image was necessary to hide the more fruitful activities. Roberts real mother Anne was in prison, but that revelation was kept from the local community. Drug use, growing and dealing weed were all part of the community’s organic pedigree but even they would be horrified at the reason for Anne’s incarceration.
Anne had murdered a family of 4 in 2014. Many would say that the family deserved such an end, but the butchery involved shocked the seasoned Police and forensic officers working the case.
The stated defence suggested that Anne was a victim of child abuse by the parents within this family and that the two adult children had conspired to hide the evidence and discredit Anne. This wasn’t quite right, all in the family were responsible for unthinkable things against scores of children. Anne wasn’t one of them.
Anne had been in business with her husband Charlie for some 15 years, they killed people. They were very good at their job and blended into the society which remained completely oblivious to the calm almost hippy-like” young couple in their midst. The fact that Anne was caught was very unfortunate and a sheer stroke of blind bad luck. The Police officer who’d witnessed Anne’s actions was simply looking t have a serious kiss and a rambunctious cuddle with his girlfriend when they drove into the laneway behind the row of old million-dollar terraces in Paddington.
It was 03.30 on a Monday morning, so the chances of anyone seeing a young lady handle a few soggy plastic bags into the back of a van was pretty low. The semi-upright constable and his near-naked girlfriend swung round into the lane and their lights caught Anne’s face, the arm that fell out of the van and the number plate of the van. The suddenly deflated officer smacked the car into reverse and while tearing out to block the lane called 000 and sought back up.
Needless to say, they arrived very fast and Anne was arrested the following day. She was found in a cheap motel near Sydney’s Central railway station. The media bombardment about the slaughter in Paddington and the woman seen handling a bag of bodies provided her Motel mates with enough energy and inducement to dob her in. They would also be queuing to receive whatever incentives the Police offered such individuals, hookers, meth addicts, homeless mentally ill folks all living the high life in town.
Anne was simply trying to hide.
Just before he got to the house Robert yelled to his father … “When are you doing the calf?”
“In about an hour, I’ll grab you so you can help if you like.” … Charlie yelled back.
“Yeah thanks, Dad”
“Another skill set Robert was learning to master” … thought Charlie. “Only 5 but he’s learning fast, the young boy is learning how to kill.
Sally headed down to the smaller “meat hut” holding yard and as per normal, sang today’s favourite tune as she did. It revealed her own lack of any musicality while displaying her appreciation for others. Today’s tune was “Creep” by Radiohead, and she belted it out full bore. “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo” she screeched out of tune.
“Well, that’s harsh” … suggested Charlie. He had just tied the calf to the holding rail in the clean concrete stock entrance and was walking into the boot room as Sally screamed on in.
“What the fuck am I doing here?” … she continued. Sally was determined to wring any life out of the song she’d allocated to being today’s song status.
“Well lover, we’re about the butcher this calf and give Robert another lesson in handling a knife.”
Wet Sand Hippies
Robert had wee’d as much as required, shaken his business, tucked himself back in and proceeded to wash his hands. He knew the importance of such actions, shaking, tucking and washing. He was becoming very good at everything he’d learnt and put his mind to. Today’s knife lesson was a highlight of another boring day at school. The young boy was more interested in learning how to kill.
“Fucking hippies weed soaked numb-nuts” … thought Robert. His so-called peers at Mullimboy’s school were as stimulating as a bag of sand. “Wet sand at that” … said Robert to himself out-loud, adding weight to his deepest held opinion.
Robert was driven to school and back each day by Bill, a laid-back ex Policeman who fell in love with a young lady he arrested some 10 years ago. Bill had been smitten, he left the Police and subsequently won a Lotto mega draw, a cool 10 million dollars. He married Cathy, bought some buses, two Hyundai people movers and set up an airport, charter company in Mullimboy.
It was a tremendous success and Bill and Cathy were incredibly happy. Great house, great wardrobe, top shelf holidays, great business, great sex and when needed some very smooth – great drugs. Bill thought he’d like Robert and his parents, although he didn’t know them other than a wave or a nod in town.
Charlie or Sally didn’t drink in the Rose Hotel or eat at Martha’s Café. These two places were the major social locations for the town’s folk to mingle, well away from the drug trade and its tourist customers. Pensioner motorbike riders, young muppets trying to grow up too quickly, Mums experimenting with their girlfriends, undercover Police from Sydney, Real 1% clubs and holidaying football team types. All sorts of people ended up in the town’s other Pubs, Michael’s Grill and The Fat Cow. That’s where the retail part of the business was conducted, the real business was conducted elsewhere.
Sally had finally run out of lyrics and was quietly waiting for a slippery smooch from her man. Wet lips, calm, cuddle and a squeeze. She was incredibly happy and so was Charlie. He and Anne had agreed that he had to move on, especially for Robert’s sake. Sally was very open to the so-called dark side of Charlie and Anne’s business. Sally was a close friend of Anne, but she too was completely unaware of their predilection for murder and other very interesting things prior to the big reveal.
In fact, not only a taste for murder and other very interesting things but a very successful business satisfying that taste.
As fast as he could, while remembering his Dad’s advice, Robert dashed down to the “meat hut”, today’s lesson was to be more knife training. The killing was easy but hiding the method and confusing any investigation was more complicated.
They practised on calves for each knife lesson. The resulting meat was portioned, packed as per normal and either hung or frozen depending on the stock-flow at the time. The Mupps Farm butchery in town was successful. The tourists, the drug crowd and the town folk all appreciated the organic principles applied at the farm.
They all bought up big, fresh wholesome and well-priced meat would always hit the spot. Of course, there were many vegans, vegetarians and the confused that didn’t like dead animals being eaten but they left the meat eaters alone. They did like Charlie and Sally, but that was for a very different reason.
Charlie had sprung to a wide range of professions in his reasonably short life. With all the skill of a terribly confident man. In some cases, he actually could be considered to be a con man, but really, he just knew what buttons existed, where they were and more importantly how to hit them. He could help people of all persuasions proceed with whatever Charlie required. That could, would, had and be his need for; sex, money, actions, reactions, ignorance, submission, defiance, cooperation. The entire range of human responses all applied when Charlie’s wishes and need required. Sally was a case in point.
She worked at a local solicitor’s office and enjoyed a tipple or 5 at Sydney’s Cat & Fiddle, one of Balmain’s top local pubs. She’d be there with her workmates and attracted men of all types and levels of success to her side like moths to a light. The light was her smile, her figure, her exuded sexual vibe and her beautiful personality.
She was what could be described as a plus size, she had a décolletage that would win awards should there be such. She wore high pumps, tight stretch dresses with a low cut bust that rocked the world wherever she went. She knew it but was lovely with it. Charlie like every other male exposed to Sally’s “sallyness” was smitten. Anne was as well and between them burst at the seams of social norms trying to organise the threesome that changed everyone’s life.
As time went by a very discrete relationship developed, higher and stronger than the wonderful sex they enjoyed. In fact, this relationship strengthened the company prospects beyond what had been in play prior to Sally’s arrival. The clients loved her, the targets could be easily swayed by her, the money men loved her, so much so that Charlie could leave most of the running of the business to her, while he and Anne did the business. It was a perfect trilogy of talents. Anne’s accidental capture and incarceration dramatically changed the trilogy but with everyone’s agreement, the business became a duo. Anne was a model prisoner and could see her parole hearing trigger getting closer and closer. It was 21 now slashed to 14 and counting.
Robert had made it down to today’s lesson and the calf was ready. This very small private holding yard and run was not like any other small-scale farm abattoir or indeed like the real Mupps Farm Meat yards and kill floor. It had an adaptation of a standard crush and gate system which offered a full rotation and height adjustment to cater for the size of the animal and the human doing the work. The floor, wall, ceiling and all fittings were all sealed and highly polished and each directed the resulting liquids into the substantial floor drain network.
The hose down covered every aspect of the room. Nothing escaped the water blasting, cold, then hot then a brew of sanitising / disinfectant washed it all down. The unique feature of this private space was that it was maintained as clean and germ-free as a hospital operating room. The best facility ever devoted to killing life and not saving it. The anti-room, entryway allowed the animal to be dealt with and the track system could then slide the animal to the next more public stage.
The gates, crush and fasteners in the room could restrain a human. In fact, it was built for that very purpose. Even though he was only 5 Robert would progress quickly, he was learning how to kill, until then, a calf.
It really was a tight little community in Mullimboy. The Local Government office was a hotbed of incestuous employment opportunities and inter-office relationships. Nepotism reigned supreme. So much so the local paper the Mullimboy Daily News, one of the lame arsed names for a newspaper, ran weekly updates of the comings and goings. The comings were sniggered at while the goings usually followed a court case involving corruption in contracts, supply and favours and the like.
The tales of supposedly well-educated men and women would boil water if the whole truth was revealed, but snippets of info concerning those educated folks and the outdoor staff were enough for the locals. It was too much for the Mayor of course. Warren Silver was a complete buffoon who managed to convince the muppets who voted that he was worthy of the lofty office, chains, robes and the new Range Rover Evoque the Council provided.
Warren had an assistant who was so much a sycophant that even Warren was embarrassed. The aim of the personal assistant was pretty clear, but Roger had lifted it to a new level of servitude. Once at the conclusion of an incredibly rambunctious community meeting Warren and Roger left in a slight scream of wheels and headed back to the office. As often with men of a certain age, an urgent need to pee hit on the way. As this evacuation drew to a close the rather helpful
Roger lent in to provide the last shake as his master concluded a vigorous phone call. Warren put a firm stop to that behaviour and identified strict boundaries for Roger to remain behind. It worked. Roger was able to stay on his side of the grovelling barrier. He did so with an increasing amount of satisfaction.
Robert knew nothing of the world, other than details and experiences gathered from school, home life and his father. Charlie and Sally were the source of truth, the setting of the moral compass and the explanation of things seen and heard in any news Robert happened to see or hear. There was a news crew at the farm once and Robert was fascinated, so much so the crew involved him in the story. Charlie and Sally managed to remain off camera.
Their voiceovers were used but the only Robertson on camera was young Robert. Crap from school was just that, but the perspective and training to identify nonsense, gossip and exaggerate ration was provided by Charlie. Having returned to the house to rustle lunch and successfully reaching the ringing landline phone, Sally yelled out to Charlie.
“It’s Warren asking for another favour.”
Charlie hit the flashing extension button on the Meat Hut’s system … “what’s holding up your pants Warren?”
“Not much this morning, Roger’s in a meeting, you cheeky fucker, could you please reconsider joining the Business Leaders Alliance (BLA)? We need clever buggers like you to drive things along and what’s more, you’ll be rewarded by the good burghers of Mullimboy and you may well sell heaps more meat”
“Warren I can’t do it mate, I’ve got extensions to the Meat Hut and accreditation for the American market coming up and just don’t have the time or headspace to offer the focus required. I’m sorry but up to my armpits in slaughtered meat just at the minute. I’ll see you later on in the week, but I can’t be joining the BLA.
“Alright, Warren mumbled, see ya.”
Ok mate – cheers … Charlie prepared to commence today’s training session. He wasn’t lying about the American market but the application and so-called accreditation or acceptance of the offer wasn’t for supplying meat. It was for turning good humans into meat.
Robert grabbed the knife as instructed and like the Police talking out their driving in a pursuit, turn left, change up to third gear, approaching roundabout etc, Robert quoted the steps he’d learnt and with a will to follow one after the other he started on one. The huge cow-eyed calf had no idea of what was happening and simply stared at the freshly cleaned white wall as its life drain out if it.
Once the initial pressurised release splattered all the surfaces within reach the blood flowed like maple syrup over a stack of pancakes, only in this case it flowed down over the calf and onto the floor below. This forceful rain of blood covered Robert and Charlie as was planned, but both had planned to remain clean under the crisp white outfits designed by Charlie and Anne.
The one-piece boots, overalls, headgear and face coverings were impregnable, and no matter what they immersed themselves in the liquid would not get in. It was as hot as blazes inside, but they weren’t worn for long and only once. The removal of the suit components was as strict as the handling of every aspect of the killing and disposal. If anything remained the evidence would be rather damning. Robert had handled the nick-kill slice perfectly and the resulting bloodletting had not worried him at all.
“That was perfect Robert … are you ready for the next step?”
Robert was very ready and was somewhat excited that he’d pleased his Dad and was very ready to do so again. “Yes Dad, I’m ready”
“OK then, find the start of the neck muscle under the chin and separate the other facial muscles while it’s still supported by the crush.” … Charlie had designed the crush supports so that most of the dissection could be carried out while the subject was held, the hoisting by the feet was only to allow for the final stage. “That’s it, Robert, now move around to the other side.”
Robert was grinning, sweating and breathing heavy inside the suit. He was getting used to it as his Dad had made him stay in it for two hours a day for three days, both getting used to wearing it as well as putting it on and taking it off. He was yet to learn what happened to it after it went down the chute in the wall. But he knew everything they touched had to go down there. The suspended meat went along the rails into another room. The final separation and preparation were carried out in there. Robert had not yet entered that room.
Sally was pottering about in the house and sang her heart out. She was usually involved in the research, planning and fieldwork, not in the “meat hut”. She was aware of course as to how it all worked, and the risks involved but wasn’t needed in that aspect of their growing business. She ran the business from her office.
The marketing of their growing skill set, and tightened expertise proved to be very tricky. They called themselves Bobbies Birthday Party Planners. BBPP offered no advertisements at all, no Facebook, no Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, no newspaper or killer for hire ads in fortune hunter type magazines. It was all by word of mouth. Even then it was an ever-changing code and heavily encrypted. They’d spied a method or two in Hollywood films, Day of the Jackal, The Accountant to name two.
The re-routing of ISP accounts bouncing about and the strict disposal of hardware after use seemed to work for all concerned. The customer referring the benefits of using BBPP to their friends or associates were provided with a one-use only URL that would send the person they’d recommended to the first step in the lengthy chain.
With each step screening out law enforcement or lucky clowns accidentally landing onto the communication page. BBPP was known to be very careful and swift in retribution if someone, happy client or not, stepped out of the agreed procedure. An ex-client and his family lived no more as a result of his stupidity. It was these four that ended up in the back of Anne’s van.
Sally had organised the house, herself and the plans for Robert’s trip into town. He was often allowed to join Charlie and Sally when they went into town for dinner. They wanted him to become a master at learning social etiquette, how to talk to all sorts of folks and how to tell truth from exaggeration and outright bullshit. Mullimboy was able to provide people and situations that supplied all options.
Robert and Charlie finished with the calf for today and left the pieces in the crush to continue on tomorrow. They dropped the suits, the knives down the chute showered, dressed and walked back up to the house laughing at Charlies silly dad jokes. Robert found his new outfit laid out on his bed for tonight’s soirée in town. He was to be styling denim on denim with the RM Williams boots, just like his Dad’s. He was very happy and showered again as was required and dressed.
It was on a night out like this where I met the Browns, although I’d soon learn that wasn’t their real name.
TV might get a story
I’d met Anne while researching a piece for Tonight’s News on 7. The self-acclaimed premier news and current affairs program that bravely ignored soap detergent comparisons and social security scare campaigns while presenting interviews and investigative journalism at its finest. Well, at least that’s what the station promoted. The story was loosely based on the group counselling dynamic and featuring benefits the inmates gained from the sessions. Law enforcement profilers also learnt from the tapes, the often-hidden meaning of the conversations and revelations.
It turned out that Anne was very keen to guide her family out of the line of work in which they’d excelled and live a so-called normal existence. I didn’t know any of this as our relationship developed over time. I thought it was a natural openness and trust, but I later found out it was planned. She literally stumbled into me during a group counselling session, held in the prison’s cafeteria. After sharing our reactions during this deeply personal session, with me as an invited witness, we discovered a mutual level of respect and friendship. One that grew.
Anne was an articulate, passionate, loving mother and wife and had realised that her family’s best interests lay with the family business closing down. Now, of course, you can’t just shut up shop and pull the doors closed. The clients believed with some good reason that as long as you’re in the game, secrets are safe. Once out there may be a temptation to capitalise on snippets of wrongdoings, name names, make a pile of money and enjoy immunity from prosecution.
“Alan” … Anne asked with a confidence that surprised me… “can I offer you a deal that may have serious risks but would be a sure-fire ratings winner, maybe a book, TV and even a major motion picture.”
“Of course, what have you in mind?” … I was intrigued and as keen as.
It turned out that Anne has a backstory I’d love to develop into a story or more. Money would be thrown in bucket loads at the revealing of how a mother and the wife of a man running a successful country farm meatworks would be caught with dissected pieces of a family oozing like saturated plastic bean bags in the back of a van in Paddington. She was well-spoken, educated and glamorous in a countrywide sort of way. In fact, if she wasn’t in prison and deeply in love with her husband, I would have made my interest clear.
“What is it? … is it to do with Paddington, or something going on in here?”
“It’s complicated, firstly Charlie, Sally and I will need to negotiate with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). Our lawyer has the gist of it and is waiting to hear from you before dropping the scenario on the CDPP. It has some serious blowback, and everything needs to be clear, signed, watertight with no loophole for any of us, even you.”
“You’d have to be a vital part of the process Alan” … Anne was laying out the broad-brush strokes in a way that might convince me that this was a good idea and that I’m driving it. I know I’m not but the ride would be worth it. “You would effectively be monitoring daily life on Mupps Farm, meeting and dealing with Charlie, Sally and in some way with Robert, while gathering all the background, details and conversations from a date we choose, should the lawyers get their shit together. Charlie and Sally are aware and have set up a system for you to gather this info and just need to hit the go button.”
“So Alan, are you in without knowing what the it is?”