August 25, 2009

Brisneyland by Night – Part Six

by Angela Slatter

I broke a panel of glass in the front door and let myself in. Ziggi, on lookout duty in the cab, studiously ignored my break and enter.

I crept along the long hallway to the kitchen. A door in the pantry floor was open. I guess when you’ve got a glamour around your house and you live in Ascot you think you’re bulletproof.

The stairway leading down was brightly lit. At the bottom: a large room, walls painted white. In the back corner, a round vat with a screw-down lid and pipes running into and out of it like a still. Behind that ran rows and rows of wine racks, stretching back into the shadows. The basement was much larger than the house above.

In the middle of it all a cold metal table, with Lizzie lying on it and next to the table stood a woman.

She looked like an Ascot matron. Maybe in her sixties, but her true age was concealed by a combination of cosmetics, a little glamour and a lot of Botox. She was short, a little thick around the waist, wearing an impeccable pale blue dress and elegant ash-blonde hair. Her knuckle-duster rings were probably worth more than my house.


I nodded.

She smiled. ‘You’re the reason she’s here, you know. I followed your scent – my, what a vintage you would have made when you were young! What wouldn’t I have done to take the tears from you? The wine tastes so much sweeter when it’s born of sorrow.’

‘You’re not eating them?’

‘No. If you take their tears you can’t use the meat. It’s too dry, tough. Really, it’s either wine or veal.’ She smiled.

‘Lizzie,’ I said. She didn’t stir. ‘Lizzie!’

‘She can’t hear you, dear. It’s a little sleeping spell until they go in the press. You don’t want panic; that sours things; but fear brings out the tears.’

‘Wake her,’ I said. ‘Wake her up and give her to me and we walk out of here. I tell no one about you.’

‘I knew your father – wonderful butcher. But rash, sloppy in his hunting.’

‘Bela Tepes knows I’m here,’ I lied. ‘You mess with me, you mess with him. You mess with him, you mess with the Weyrd Council.’

‘Two of my best customers are on the board, lovie,’ she said confidentially.

July 14, 2009

Brisneyland by Night – Part Five

by Angela Slatter

My heart thumped. No. Wrong neighbourhood. Wrong kind of kid.

‘Have you checked the tree?’ Lizzie liked to hide in the hollow of the jacaranda tree in my backyard. She had comic books in sealed plastic bags, a blanket, a couple of dolls there. Her mother and I pretended we didn’t know about it – every kid needs a secret place.

‘First place I looked. Not with her friends either.’ She shook her head, trying not to cry. ‘I don’t want to overreact ...’ she said, but I knew that’s exactly what she wanted to do, like any mother. She wanted to scream until her baby came back; she wanted to kill the person who’d caused her this tearing fear.

‘Did you see anyone? Any strange cars?’

She shakes her head, stops. ‘A big gold Mercedes drove past a couple of times when I was in the garden. But ...’

‘Did you get a number plate? Any of it?

‘WKD1 – I noticed it coz it was weird.’

She had no idea how weird. ‘Call the cops, better to be safe than sorry. I’ll go for a drive,’ I said, eying the gypsy cab as it pulled up out the front of my place.

She nodded and the movement of her head was enough to spill the tears over. I pushed her away. ‘You’ve got my mobile – call if you hear anything.’

I climbed into the cab, wishing I’d had time for a call shower to at least trick me into feeling alert.

‘We’ve got a problem, Ziggi.’

‘Just one?’

‘Kid next door’s gone missing.’

‘You think ...?’

‘Don’t know. Wrong suburb, wrong area, wrong kind of home, but who wants to risk it?’ I tried to catch my breath. ‘Got anyone who can check a licence plate for me?’

‘Of course, I got friends at Transport. Cost ya, though.’

‘It’s only money.’ I gave him the tag and waited, staring out the window while he made the call.

‘You’re not gonna be happy,’ Ziggi interrupted my thoughts and tugged hard on the wheel, turning us around sharply.

‘Won’t be the first time. Where are we going?’

‘Ascot. You said there wasn’t anything there.’

‘I said I couldn’t see anything. There’s overground and there’s underground, Ziggi. Burrows, cellars, caves, tunnels, larders. Aw, jeez.’

I leaned against the upholstery and closed my eyes, hoping the afternoon traffic wouldn’t bring us to a standstill.

June 4, 2009

Brisneyland by Night – Part Four

by Angela Slatter

Most folk, Normal or Weyrd, are law-abiding. But there’s a market for everything: some tables demand the tenderest of flesh. It was a particular taste indulged in by the very few, a leftover from the past. Someone had to source and butcher that flesh.

Kinderfresser. All those fairytales and it turns out my father was the monster.

He got sloppy and didn’t take the hunt far enough from home. Grigor lasted precisely how long you think a child killer would in prison. The people he’d been supplying just faded into the background without trace, and the flow of child disappearances seemed to stop for a long, long time – at least, those connected to Brisneyland’s Weyrd.

Now, though, something was changing and there was a new product out there. Not child flesh, but something almost as bad. Wine made from children's tears.

‘How many kids now?’ I asked.

‘About forty in the last few months.’

They were being sucked dry of all the tears they might ever cry, taking their ability to feel joy, compassion, pain, their ability to care, and ultimately their lives. Those tears were bottled and offered for sale very quietly by someone who disappeared too easily. All we had were stories from Weyrd who’d heard it from a friend of a friend – and a lot of missing children.

‘I’ll seek what I can find about that house,’ said Bella.

‘Houses generally don’t get registered under "super villain".’

I was exhausted. I’d been awake for a long time.

‘Bela, I have to sleep. I’ve got nothing left.’

He nodded and rose, then he pushed me towards my bedroom. I lay down and felt him pulling my shoes off. There was a gentle kiss in the middle of my forehead and I thought I heard the front door snick shut, but wasn’t sure.

The knocking woke me. I felt sick and groggy. Swearing about Ziggi and drivers in general, I stumbled to the door.

There was a distinct lack of Ziggi. Lizzie’s mother stood there, pale and shaky against the late afternoon.

‘Mel. What?’ I managed. She looked at me with desperate hope and I just knew I was going to disappoint her.

‘Is Lizzie here? She said she was coming over to read with you.’

Little bugger.

Her voice rose, seeing my blank expression. ‘Is Lizzie here?!’

May 7, 2009

Brisneyland by Night – Part Three

by Angela Slatter

Ziggi dropped me home. I handed him a wad of the notes Bela had given me. Somehow it didn’t feel like my money. ‘Same time tonight.’

He nodded; drove off. I limped up the path. The jasmine was thick on the front fence, overpoweringly sweet.

‘Verity? Can you get my ball?’ Between the fence palings a small hand appeared.

I picked up the ball. ‘Birthday present?’

‘Uh-huh. But I like yours best.’ I’d given her a book of fairytales – the proper ones, where little children are eaten by wolves with no hope of rescue. Her mother had frowned, but Lizzie ate the stories up.

I dropped the ball over the fence.

‘Thanks, Verity. Can I come over?’

‘Not today, my friend. Maybe on the weekend.’


Inside, the hot air almost smothered me, so I quickly opened all the windows. The breeze did its thing and soon the place was bearable. I sat in one of the faded green chairs on the back deck and waited.

I stretched my leg out and rested it on the top of the table. I looked at the jacaranda tree in the backyard and nodded to the extremely fat kookaburra perched on one of its limbs. A movement caught at the edge of my vision.

‘It’s rude not to knock. It’s also rude to keep my house key since we broke up.’

Bela sat. ‘Someone might need to help you.’

‘Your kind of help, I can do without.’

‘And a big hello to you, too.’ He nodded at my leg. ‘Sore? I can fix it, you know.’

I touched his face. ‘Your price is too high.’

‘So, answers?’

‘Plenty of ideas. No answers.’

‘Why am I paying you?’

‘No idea.’ I told him about last night’s tour.

He sighed. ‘There hasn’t been activity like this since your father.’

I closed my eyes.

There’s a market for everything.

My mother was Normal and gone before I knew her. My father was Weyrd. For a long time I didn’t know there was a difference. The everyday things were salt in corners to soak up curses; bake blood into the bread to keep ghosts away; sweep towards your front door, chanting for wealth.

My father. Twenty years ago he was jailed as a kidnapper and killer, but that didn’t even begin to touch the skin of what he was.

Kinderfresser. Child-eater. Butcher to the Weyrd.

March 6, 2009

Brisneyland by Night – Part Two

by Angela Slatter

‘Why didn’t we come here first?’

Our last stop: a house in Ascot that I didn’t remember seeing before.

He shrugged. ‘Always the last place you look. It’s glamoured.’

He was right – I had to concentrate to see it properly. It got easier, but still the building seemed, well, slippery.

The house was set far back from the road, in the middle of an overgrown garden. Trees led up the driveway, grown so tall and close they formed a canopy overhead. Flying foxes squeaked, dark patches against the lightening sky.

I got out of the cab. ‘You’re not going anywhere, right?’

‘You paid me yet?’


‘I ain’t going nowhere.’

I wanted to go to bed. I’d spent the whole night picking through deserted houses. In West End, I’d nearly been spitted on the umbrella of an especially grumpy old lady whose wings unfurled in shock when she found me in her squat. That was fun.

West End’s filled with Weyrd. Everyone thinks it’s just students, drunks, artists, writers, a few yuppies waiting for an upgrade, junkies and the Saturday markets for cheap fruit and vegies. There’s also a metric butt-load of Weyrd, who do their best to blend in. In suburbs with a pretty strange human population, they generally succeed. The smart ones use glamours to hide what they are.

But this was Ascot; so upmarket that house prices could give you a nosebleed

I pushed hard on the doorbell. If anyone answered I’d ask if they were interested in a pyramid-selling scheme. People invariably backed away then, like you had an eye in your forehead.

No one came.

Through the front windows I couldn’t see too much: dark tidy rooms, some expensive pieces of furniture, a chandelier catching strays streaks of dawn light.

Out the back, steps lead down to a sunken garden. From the vantage of the veranda I could see it was set out as a maze, about five feet high; you might lose track of your path if you were short or a young kid.

Empty house. Why the glamour? I might have given up but that was the kicker. Something was amiss. Where do you hide a whole bunch of kids? Twenty-five kids in four weeks; all from unhappy homes so it looks like they’ve run away.

How do you make them disappear without a trace? A glamour.

December 25, 2008

Brisneyland by Night - Part One

by Angela Slatter

It was a gypsy cab in every sense of the word: battered and beaten, everything grey, the vinyl of the seat sticky, the rubber floor mats so thin as to be almost transparent ... I imagined they were the only thing stopping me from seeing the road speeding beneath us.

Instead of an air freshener, a gris-gris hung from the rear-view mirror. Scratched along the inside of the doors were protective symbols even I couldn’t read, and occasionally marks made by fingernails. I didn’t want to think about that too deeply. And it smelled. Not bad, but of incense, sickly sweet and cloying.

There weren’t too many cabs like this in Brisbane, although as the population grew so too did the demand.

The single eye in the back of the driver’s head examined me while the other two on his face dealt with the night-time traffic. I wasn’t his usual client, neither Weyrd nor wandering Goth. I didn’t use gypsy cabs much or at least not until the accident. Now I was a regular victim of public transport. Environmentally friendly but sometimes my fellow bus and train commuters were creepier than the gypsy cab drivers. Bela had given me the number. He was going to get in trouble for it, but I guess he figured I might do some good before that happened.

It wasn’t my usual kind of job, but then again, once upon a time I didn’t ache inside and walk with a limp. Bela thought this might keep me amused and, with my sick pay almost gone, I needed money. Besides, he knew about my dad. I might see something no one else would, hopefully before someone joined dots and people in high places started digging where a whole lot of worms hid from the light of day.

‘What you looken for?’

‘The Winemaker.’

He got quiet then. This was one of those times when you learned about people, how they react.
Most folk, Normal or Weyrd, are law-abiding. But there’s a market for everything and the law of supply and demand. In the usual course of things kids cry, right? But enough to fill a standard wine bottle? Enough for a large dinner party?

‘Okay,’ he said slowly. ‘I got some ideas. Name’s Ziggi.’


‘I hearda you.’

‘I bet.’ I looked out the window; the lights of the Story Bridge swam in the blackness.