Australian Psycho


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I’ve come to realize that it’s difficult to explain a life without emotion. To most people the very thought is incomprehensible. Many of you don’t realize, or perhaps can’t admit, exactly how much you rely on sentiment rather than intellect to form a self-identity - everybody wants to think themselves a rational being, and therefore most manage to convince themselves that they truly are. So when I am forced to describe exactly how it is to feel no conscience, no empathy, no driving emotional impulses, nobody really seems to understand. All I get are arguments on realism, nihilism, socialism, even Satanism - a whole host of aspiring intellectuals ascribing my every thought to some self-serving philosophical or political worldview. But this isn’t a philosophy. To be honest I can’t think of anything more useless. This is just who I am.

        For all the apparent drawbacks, an empty mind can be extraordinarily liberating. From what I’ve observed, most of you put far too much time and thought into every action. You have to weigh up the emotional impact of every decision you will ever make, how you think it will affect you, your family, your friends. Will that girl I’m after be impressed or put off by a sleeve tattoo? How will grandma feel if I bring my new boyfriend to Christmas dinner? So in a way, putting emotion ahead of reason actually leads to even more thinking - as delicious an irony as I’ve ever encountered. I don’t have any of these issues. As the great John Kennedy Senior once said, “don’t think, do.” And if somebody doesn’t like what I’ve done, well, they can always go fuck themselves.

        It doesn’t happen often, but when somebody does finally manage to get their head around what I mean by true rationality, the most common reaction is sympathy. My lawyer, for example, seems to think that there must be some hole in my psyche, maybe a childhood trauma that leaves me feeling dead inside. Others use words like psychopath, believing that there must be something physically wrong with my brain to make me so fundamentally different to the rest of society. But it’s not like that. There’s no hole in me - I feel just fine within myself. If anything, I’d say it’s the other way around. The vast majority of you need the validation of others to feel content, the weight of public opinion reassuring you that you’re special, unique, good. And you think I’m sick for not needing any of that self-serving bullshit. It’s a strange delusion.

        In truth, it’s not so much that I’m emotionless, just emotionally different. Missing some of the key ones, but otherwise fairly normal. Like I said, I don’t experience empathy. I can use logic to put myself in somebody else’s shoes, think how I’d react if I was in their situation, but I will never feel guilt for hurting anybody or sympathy for their pain. People seem to think that this means I could never care for anything but myself, yet that’s not at all true. I can care very deeply about people, if I think they’re worth it. I would’ve put my life on the line for my little sister because she was, objectively, a better person than me - smarter, funnier, more honest, and most importantly unpretentious, a trait which I’ve found to be extremely rare in our society. I guess it goes to show that bad things do consistently happen to good people, because if ever somebody deserved to live happily ever after, it was her.

        Another one I don’t get is self-pity. It is a worthless feeling, born of an unjustified self-entitlement which seems to define the human race. There is no god, what goes around doesn’t come around, and karma is not a bitch. If you do only good in your life, you can’t expect life to do only good to you. So if you’re getting all upset because you’ve gone out of your way to lead a perfect existence and you’re still not getting the respect you deserve for it, don’t; nobody deserves anything. If you really think that being good is the way to go, then you’ll do it regardless of the praise you receive, and if you don’t, maybe it’s time to get off your high horse and come join the rest of us in that gutter of society known as the real world.

        Happiness I do feel, but not in the butterflies and rainbows sense that a lot of people describe. I don’t wake up in the morning and think “what a beautiful day, I feel great.” Happiness comes from two things; relief and triumph. Relief, when I avoid a negative consequence, and triumph, when I cause a positive one. It shouldn’t be a spontaneous feeling - like most things in life you have to do something to earn it.

        The one I cannot stand, though, no matter how glowingly people describe it, is love. It’s a fine concept, I think, but over time popular culture has twisted it so grotesquely that the ideal itself has become a farce. I talked a lot with a priest during my travels, in Kazhakstan I think it was, and he told me that love is what it means to be human. All the evolutionary changes we’ve undergone as a species have led us step by step to the point where each and every one of us can experience this one emotion. I’ve seen dozens of bad American movies laboring that same point, and I’ve hated every one of them. The same used up plot of a tropic cold, ultra-progressive, calculating villain foiled against the odds by some loyal, conservative, lovably outdated hero. The same tired rhetoric. The amount of times you hear Dr Evil telling the hero “love is your weakness,” only to be beaten at the last second by good old James Bond pushing through the pain barrier to save the damsel in distress, or country, or world, is sickening.

        All those super-villains have it wrong, by the way. Love isn’t a weakness or a disease in itself, it’s a symptom of a greater malaise. The need to put somebody on a pedestal, to gloss over their every flaw and be unable to live without them, is demonstrative of a gaping hole in the psyche of most human beings. It shows a complete inability to face reality: that nothing matters, there is no meaning, and there is no such thing as perfection. It’s the same with patriotism and religion, weak people needing some greater purpose to live for so that they can ignore the one universal truth - that life is simply a series of meaningless events leading up to an inevitable death. The fact that the human race seems to be enthralled in a grand conspiracy to elevate this one misguided emotion to the realm of the spiritual disgusts me. But then again, that’s just my opinion.

        Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this book is not, I’m told, to lecture you all on the benefits of amorality. Instead, it’s task is to go into detail about my childhood, explain the motivation behind my numerous crimes, and perhaps serve as some sort of confessional to cleanse me of my sins. I’m sure the man who commissioned it - I suppose he’s now my agent - also hopes it will sell a lot of copies and make him extremely rich, but he assures me that that’s completely incidental. The world needs to hear my story.

        So here it is. The grand tale of the Butcher of Belmore, in all its intricate detail. I would ask you to enjoy, but as I’ve already mentioned I really couldn’t care less. What I would appreciate, though, is that you try not to judge. The vast majority of you are in no position to do so.

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Chapter 1

Over the last couple of years I’ve heard a lot of experts speculate over what went wrong in my life, what could possibly have driven me to commit such a spree of heinous and often inexplicable crimes. My defense team paid some very well respected psychologists to delve into my abusive childhood, the divorce, Jessie’s death and almost anything else you can imagine to excuse, or at least explain, my actions. I guess I’m not the most objective of observers, but I would have to say that it’s extremely offensive to have my entire life written off as the product of a series of external factors, not so much the result of my own actions as a commentary on my social environment.

        My childhood was, to be perfectly honest, nothing special. I was born on 1 June, 1988 in a fairly large country town in northern Victoria. Mum and dad were both doctors, moving north from Melbourne a couple of years before my birth to fill a shortage of rural health care professionals and receive far greater pay than they would have found at home. I was their first child.

        Growing up, I was quite a popular kid. I attended the largest of three primary schools in the region, and knew everybody in my year level fairly well. I played a lot of different sports, and my popularity probably stemmed from being good at just about all of them. Life at home was also relatively happy, at least in my early years. Mum and dad got on well, and I was well loved. I don’t remember the first time dad hit me, but I do know it was fairly regular by the time I was seven or eight. Again, it didn’t really faze me that much. I don’t know why, but I guess it’s true when they say that kids can adapt to anything.

        I say I was a popular kid at school, but I didn’t really have that many close friends. I was invited to everybody’s birthday parties growing up, and there were a group of us who used to hang out at the footy oval after school and on weekends, but there was nobody I really cared about a great deal except for my little sister.

        Most of the kids I knew at school didn’t get on with their siblings, and almost every parent in the world can be heard wishing that their children would act like everybody else’s and just stop fighting for ten seconds. With Jessie and I that never really happened. We were born a year apart, so pretty much grew up together. I was always quite tall for my age, if skinny, while Jessie was small and slight, with light orange/red hair and freckles. She used to look up to me, I think, and not just physically. When we were little she’d follow me around all the time, trying to hug me whenever I sat still. I hated being hugged, but from her I put up with it.

        I know what you must be thinking - I’ve just said I hate the very concept of love, and now here I am saying I loved my little sister. No. It wasn’t that I loved her, but I knew she loved me, and I knew she needed my protection. More than that, as she grew up I realized that she was actually a genuinely good person. I’d like to say I contributed to that, and I think it might be the truth. Again, this may sound like the height of hypocrisy coming from a man who has admitted to having no moral compass, but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect someone for doing the right thing, and even encourage them to continue. If I had one motto, it would be “practice what you preach” - you can say you’re a saint and live it or simply admit you’re an arsehole and I’ll respect you for either, but if you try and fake who you are to fit in, I have nothing but contempt for you.

        The one time I can remember standing up to dad was over Jessie. I was about ten, and he was drunk. Again, I couldn’t tell you when the drinking started, but I know it got progressively worse throughout my childhood. At the time he was still fine most days, but that evening he’d had a few too many and then kept right on going. I think he must have downed an entire bottle of whiskey single-handed, and by about ten he was already hammered. And Jessie told him to stop and go to bed.

        That’s the main thing I admired about her. She was a little girl even compared to most kids her own age, but she never took shit from anybody, and she always stood up for what she believed in regardless of the potential consequences. In this case it was a terrible idea. Dad changed when he drunk, lost all control and reason. During the daytime he was as kind and loving a father as a child could ever wish for, but on nights like that one the father disappeared and the angry alcoholic emerged.

        Jessie spoke up against him, and dad sat there considering her words, empty whiskey bottle in his right hand and remote control in the left. I thought he was going to ignore her for a second, but then he calmly placed the remote on his armrest and backhanded her hard in the face. It was the only time he’d ever hit her, I think, and he didn’t hold back. She fell backwards, smacking her head on the ground, and started crying in shock and pain. I’d just been sitting on another chair reading a book and ignoring everybody, and mum was standing in the kitchen watching.

        I think that this was the moment I first recognized that I felt nothing for either of my parents, by the way. Mum was standing in the kitchen, and she saw her drunk husband belt her daughter. So she gasped quietly, took a half-step in the direction of the living room, and then turned back around and started doing the dishes, managing to ignore Jessie’s cries. Maybe she was too scared for her own safety to step in, but to my mind that was no excuse.

        I got up and walked over to the kitchen. I can remember how I felt, because it’s how I always feel when I’m about to do something stupid or violent. I was almost bored. It was like I’d been waiting for that moment without realizing it, and now that it had arrived I already knew what was going to happen, so it held no interest for me.

        Anyway, I walked to the kitchen, grabbed the carving knife from the knife rack, and strolled back into the living room. Dad was still slouched in his chair, the empty bottle of whiskey beside him, and I think he might actually have been regretting what he’d done. I didn’t care. I snuck around the side of the chair, hiding the knife behind my back, and when I was close enough I whipped it out and pressed the tip to his eye, just touching the eyeball. Dad was drunk and had no time to react, freezing in place as the sharpened steel filled his vision. I’ve always found threatening the eye to be the most effective way to scare people - there’s just something horrifying about the thought of being stabbed there, a sensation so strong it can be physically sickening. As a ten year old child I knew that I couldn’t give him even the slightest chance to flinch away and grab me, and that was the one way I could think to accomplish it.

        I told dad that if he ever did anything like that to my sister again, I’d kill him. I didn’t blink. He didn’t either. I think we both knew that I was serious, and that if he hurt her he’d have to kill me later. Anyway, that was the last time he hit Jessie. Two days later he beat me black and blue though, so bad I was vomiting blood for a day. He wouldn’t let me go to the hospital and mum didn’t stand up to him, so I just stayed home and told the school nurse I was sick.

        Again, reading this little introduction you might be thinking that you’ve already found the reason for my violent nature, but that’s not the case. In fact, I would argue that I don’t have a violent nature at all. I lack the aggressive impulses common to most human beings, but neither do I possess the instincts for empathy or self-preservation which might check my wilder notions. More of my crimes are born from curiosity than anger, although I’m sure that’s no consolation to the victims. I find it easier than most to forgive and forget over minor slights, but when my patience runs out there’s nothing to restrain me. Once an idea takes hold, whether it is born from boredom or frustration or annoyance, it never flits away to the back of my mind. It might take me anything from a day to several years to follow through, but I do not make idle threats.

        There were certainly no signs of undue malice in my early years - quite the opposite, in fact. Many adults - teachers, family friends, football coaches, those who didn’t know me especially well - remarked on how much quieter and better behaved I was than most kids my age. I didn’t spend my childhood torturing birds and animals like a typical psychopath, and indeed I resent being compared to one. I’ve met a few, and the word I’d use to describe them is childish. Unreasoning, uncontrolled, willful, impulsive creatures who cannot moderate their behavior well enough to profit from the massive advantage they have been given over most of humanity. I like to think that I’m better than that, but it’s impossible to deny that in one aspect we are identical. Even before dad started beating me I felt nothing for him, or mum, or anybody else. Most of my extended family noticed it, pointing out that I never cried as a baby, never seemed to laugh or smile growing up, never joked around like a normal kid. I don’t know why I’m different, but I do know I’ve always been this way.

        As an after hours activity, my primary school used to hire an instructor to come to the gym at the end of every week day and give the kids free MMA training. I think they figured it was a way to keep the older kids off the streets, and perhaps help them enjoy school enough to stop vandalizing it. I don’t know if that worked for anybody else, but I used to love it. The instructor was a wise old Asian guy, as all martial arts instructors should be, and I was his main disciple. Master Jeon was his name, I think, but my memory of that time is shaky and I’m not positive.

        The main thing Master Jeon taught me, apart from mixed martial arts, was discipline. I actually laughed out loud years later when I started watching South Park and saw an episode where the boys took karate lessons, because Master Jeon was scarily similar to their instructor, minus the ridiculous accent. He told us that none of his teaching would mean anything if we didn’t practice at home, keep fit, and listen closely to what he said. I soaked it in, did everything he asked and improved rapidly as a result. I guess it says something about the town I grew up in that the person I respected most was a sixty year old martial arts instructor, a man I only saw twice a week during school terms. Or maybe it says something about me. Anyway, I progressed through the belts quickly, did every exercise he asked of me and spent as much time as possible sparring, usually with him or the older kids. At the time I couldn’t understand why Jessie didn’t want me to teach her, but I think violence just wasn’t her cup of tea.

        Aside from mixed martial arts, the sports I played were the only other things that really interested me through primary school. I was into tennis, football (real football, AFL) and cricket, in that order. As I’ve mentioned, I was quite talented at all of them, and worked hard enough to make myself a standout at just about everything. I’d play tennis every Saturday and cricket or footy on Sunday depending on the season. Those were the constants of my early life.

        I guess the drinking made it inevitable that mum and dad’s marriage wasn’t going to last - the real surprise was that it didn’t end sooner. The strange thing is, I don’t think dad ever beat mum, just me. I certainly never saw any bruises on her, and I think I would have heard it if he had. I certainly heard every other argument, and the lack of physical violence didn’t make them any less spectacular. These were some impressive fights, mainly from mum’s end - screaming, crying, throwing cutlery around the house and eventually running out the door and driving off in tears, only to return a couple of hours later and refuse to talk to anybody for a week. Again, that didn’t bother me, but Jessie really felt the strain of it.

        At this point, I should probably tell you something about my parents and their personalities. Truth be told, apart from sometimes getting drunk and hitting me, I didn’t really mind dad. He was tall and even tempered (when sober), and seemed to get on well with most people. He had a strong sense of morality, which is ironic really, and would occasionally buy me and Jessie treats without ever mentioning it again or expecting anything back from us. He worked long hours as a doctor, but would always try and find time for us once he got home, taking me to sport every weekend or helping Jessie with her homework on school nights. He once even let her paint his face as a fairy queen when he took her to a fancy dress day at school, and completed the outfit with a tiara and little wings. Even after the drinking started he tried to do the right thing by us, but he was an alcoholic and a mean drunk.

        Mum didn’t have anything like such a serious character flaw, but I never liked her anyway. She was just too emotionally fragile, I think. She loved the idea of being a loving mother, and couldn’t cope with the fact that I never seemed to do any of the things that happy kids should do. She would buy us the occasional treat and spend half the day talking as if we were best friends, but conversations were always fraught.

        No week was ever completed without her breaking down into tears and screaming at one of us kids that we were disrespectful, ungrateful little monsters, and later on that if we didn’t start trying harder at school we’d end up on the street. Most of our conversations ended with her questioning why we couldn’t follow her example to live a happy life, often followed by a grounding or some other arbitrary punishment. She never seemed to catch on that it’s hard to respect or like somebody when you’ve never seen them do an honest days work, somebody who pretends not to notice when her husband gets drunk and beats you half to death. Despite his drinking I preferred dad, and that is saying something.

        Although Eagle Hill was never the wealthiest or safest town in Victoria, with a fairly nasty drug problem and a lot of juvenile delinquency, it was still a conservative place by Australian standards. There were a lot of Christians, premarital sex was frowned upon (at least in the area I lived in), and marriage was until death do us part. So when the wider community realized that the doctor and his wife were going to split up, shit hit the fan in a big way.

        All of a sudden I went from being a fairly popular but generally inconspicuous kid to the centre of attention. As you can imagine, I was not a complete angel at school. I wasn’t quite a bully and certainly didn’t fit the description of a classic problem child, but if I thought somebody was a pretentious wanker I wouldn’t hide it. That made me some friends and lost me a lot of others, so in my moment of supposed weakness I became something of a polarizing figure.

        I was in grade six when the impending divorce became public knowledge, and suddenly a lot of people I didn’t really know wanted to be my best friends and help me through it, while those who were not quite so fond of me saw it as an opportunity to get their own back. To be perfectly honest, I preferred the second group; I’ve always hated contrived expressions of caring and support, and it was especially frustrating that most of these people seemed more upset than I was about the situation. By contrast, I couldn’t have cared less about most of the taunts which came my way, although I did use it as an excuse to break the arm of one boy I particularly detested.

        After a couple of weeks I think most of my classmates realized that I just didn’t care, and so things returned to normal for me. Jessie was not so lucky - she was a far kinder and more caring person, and her enemies used that to hurt her. As I later discovered, girls have a greater capacity for emotional cruelty than boys, and take far more pleasure in it. As I’ve said before, Jessie had never hesitated to stand up for herself or others, and so she’d made some enemies amongst the more popular and bitchy girls in her year level. Her friends, on the other hand, were mainly those she’d defended from the attacks - the weak, unpopular ones who were never going to be able to take care of her in turn.

        Jessie was subjected to a barrage of abuse about our divorcing parents, and unfortunately she took it to heart, gradually letting the poison seep in and consequently sinking into a deep depression. Much to my regret, I didn’t notice the signs. I honestly thought that she must be starting to become more like me, maybe because she was growing up, but what I saw as a welcome relief from her general talkativeness was actually the beginning of something far more serious.

        The divorce didn’t officially occur until I was well into year seven. Mum decided that she couldn’t stand the thought of living in the same town as her ex, and so she headed back to Melbourne with well over half of their combined assets as well as both children. If I’d been given a choice, I would probably have stayed. Dad was trying his best to work through his drinking problems by then, and over the couple of months before we left I can’t remember him hitting me once. He joined AA and was really starting to put his life back together, whether from guilt or pride I’ll never know. Anyway, that counted for nothing in the end because he killed himself a couple of weeks after we left, leaving everything to me and Jessie in the will.

        His funeral was one of the most awkward events I’ve ever attended. It was a very small gathering, family only, and all the adults spent their time mumbling about how he was a good man deep down who must never have meant to hurt us. Mum didn’t want us going and kept Jessie at home, but I took a bus north the day beforehand and watched the service from a hiding spot behind a line of trees, trying to get a last look at my father’s body.

        I hadn’t realized it while I lived there, but Eagle Hill meant a lot to me. I guess that’s the downside of never really being happy: you don’t recognize that there’s a reason you’re not sad. There was enough of a routine to give me purpose and enough variation to keep me entertained. I played the same sports at the same times in the same places every weekend, went to a school I knew, and hung out with the same group of friends. I may not have felt a deep attachment to them at the time, and truth be told I wasn’t devastated when I found out we would be leaving, but I began to regret that once we arrived in the suburbs of Melbourne.

        There were two immediate downsides to Melbourne: the weather and the people. We made our migration south in the middle of winter, and it seemed to rain all the time. It was cold, wet, and windy, and coming from a town where a cool day still reached twenty degrees, the whole place felt absolutely horrible. I got sick and stayed that way for quite some time.

        And naturally, upon our arrival in such difficult circumstances, both sides of my full extended family decided to gather around and support us. I hated it. It was bad enough when I’d only had to see them on birthdays and holidays, but for several weeks there was a constant stream of boring older relatives dropping by to lend their support, offering tea and sympathy for mum and overdone kindness and compassion for me and Jessie. I’m not sure how much mum told everybody about dad’s drinking, but every single one of them made a point of spending quality time with me, giving me presents and hugging me and promising they’d be there for me. I would have liked nothing more than to be left alone, never to see any of them ever again.

        There were a couple of cousins of around my age who I didn’t mind, and mum’s brother was the perfect uncle, the only family member I liked or respected. Unfortunately I don’t think he and mum got on, so he was the only one I never really saw. I never even realized that he had children until I was taken back to Australia last year. Other than that one of my grandmothers was OK, both grandfathers were dead, but three other aunts and one uncle were the most boring, annoying, pathetic people I’d ever met. Between the four of them I doubt their IQ reached 100, and they seemed to derive all of their pleasure in life from trying to foster close family bonds between us.

        So naturally I hated Lindfield from the moment I arrived. School was terrible too. Mum had enrolled Jessie and I in a very expensive private school, a heavy investment in our education that she never let us forget, and it was the antithesis of everything I hadn’t realized I liked about Eagle Hill. The uniform was ridiculous: buttoned shirt, polished shoes, blazer and tie. The staff were beyond pretentious, talking about the School, capital S, as if it was the equivalent of Oxford or Cambridge, a proud and historical institution dedicated to turning us all into morally and financially sound citizens. And the pupils, the sons and daughters of the richest parents in a fairly well off area of Melbourne, were just as bad. I guess none of them were really terrible people, but the entitlement, privilege, and general softness I witnessed there was amazing. The major advantage of growing up in a poor country town is that you learn not to cry about it when you get knocked over, but these kids seemed to have been taught exactly the opposite. I had to go to counseling for tackling a kid too hard in PE footy. They banned contact sports in lunch break, FFS.

        I coped predictably badly with the change, not even trying to fit in amongst those soft, spoiled private school brats I already detested, but Jessie did better. Free from the taunts which had surrounded her back in Eagle Hill, she quickly became one of the more popular girls in school although she, like myself, did not really like any of the kids around her. She was more forgiving though, and managed to befriend most of her cohort despite their many flaws. Within a year she was more or less back to her normal self, although I did notice that she was a little less open with her feelings, slower to smile or laugh and far quieter around strangers.

        One of the few positives I found in St Martins was that the sports program was a lot more serious and intensive than anything I had seen before. Lacking the capacity to form a passion for anything on my own, I think it was a good thing that the school tried to make one for me. This wasn’t one of those politically correct junior competitions revolving around participation and having fun; everything was geared towards winning for the glory of the school, and I loved it. There were two training sessions a week, summer and winter, and we played against other private schools on Saturday mornings. Naturally, I played tennis in summer and footy in winter, and was given a scholarship for being good at both. I also kept practicing my mixed martial arts - by the time I arrived in Melbourne I was the equivalent of a black belt in karate, although there is no real belt system so rankings can be subjective.

        The other benefit was that, for the first time, I made a genuine friend. Spike, like me, had come down from the country that year, although in his case he had only arrived after being given a football scholarship. His real name was Scott, but I don’t think anybody ever used that in the four years he spent at St Martins. On the footy field he was brilliant, and could have been anything in the AFL if he’d put his mind to it. Off the field he was popular with all the kids in our age group, but not the sort of guy parents liked their sons (and certainly not their daughters) hanging out with. He was captain and I was vice captain of the footy team and we also played tennis together, so we ended up mates almost by circumstance.

        By year eight Spike was already drinking fairly regularly, and by year nine smoking weed. His dad was a truckie, away from home for most of the year, and his mum had left them when Spike was six, so he and his twin sister Claire mainly had the house to themselves. They made full use of it, stocking the fridge with alcohol and the pantry with weed, hosting parties and generally living the life every kid in high school dreams of. I was more than happy to share that with them. I got on well with Spike and we were soon best mates, but from the moment I saw her I knew I wanted to be a lot more than best mates with Claire.

        Unlike Spike, Claire hadn’t received a scholarship to St Martins, so she went to the public school down the road. I first met her at fifteen, and like any fifteen year old boy I was crazy about sex. She was entrancing, completely different to any girl I’d met before. She had the whole punk rock look going on, but unlike most such girls it wasn’t just a way of distracting from weight issues or an ugly face. She had long black hair streaked with pink, amazingly bright blue eyes, pale skin, multiple piercings, a great body and a delicate elfin face that I thought couldn’t get any more beautiful.

        Four months after we met she took my virginity, although I certainly did not take hers.

        Spike and I were good friends pretty much all through high school. Like me, he wasn’t a big fan of most of the kids in our year level. The level of pretentiousness and insecurity was amazing. In Eagle Hill I hadn’t had much of an idea of what celebrity culture was, but at St Martins it was all-encompassing. I’m not sure if it was because we were closer to the city, or whether it was the rise of the internet and social media at that time, but it was everywhere and it affected everyone.

        The kids mimicked everything they saw on TV or found on the internet. Everybody had to have the latest phone, clothes, computer and haircut, and they all had the money to get it. What most of them couldn’t get their hands on, however, was alcohol. By the time we all reached year ten and people started throwing serious parties, Spike and I had become the two most popular kids in our year level. In a world of strict parental control, we essentially had an open house and unlimited access to liquor and soft drugs, and we quickly discovered that we could use this to make a significant profit.

        Spike’s dealer was the son of one of his dad’s mates. I think he probably grew weed out the back of his property in the hills above Melbourne, and we knew he had a lot of harder drugs available, but Spike was serious about his footy and I wasn’t an idiot, so we contented ourselves with marijuana and alcohol. At about this time I began a relationship with Claire, although I’m not sure “relationship” is the most accurate word to describe it. Before we had sex for the first time, she told me that she wasn’t going to be my girlfriend, and that if I had a problem with her seeing other guys, I could either deal with it or piss off. Sex was fun, she said, and I shouldn’t complicate it.

        Naturally, as a teenage boy the thing I appreciated most about Claire was her body, but in hindsight I think that little speech she gave might have been the best thing about her. It all comes back to that hated concept of true love - she was the first person I met who admitted out loud that it was bullshit, and just got in the way of real enjoyment. Growing up I thought there was something wrong with me for not wanting to be in any sort of relationship - a lot of the girls at school talked endlessly of finding the dream guy and marrying him - and I think Claire was the first person who really articulated my thoughts on the ridiculous insecurity behind that dream.

        I think we had sex about twenty times over the course of half a year before she called it off, claiming that she always got bored of being with the one guy. At the time I didn’t know if that was the truth or if I just wasn’t very good - obviously I hoped it was the former, although I had my suspicions. That first half of year ten was probably the best time of my life, six months of almost total freedom outside school hours and endless diversions and distractions to keep me occupied. Having sex with Claire was great while it lasted, but our rather anti-climactic breakup was far from the end of the world.

        Spike and I were either throwing or attending house parties almost every weekend. We used to charge people ten bucks a head to get in to his place, and make about $300-$1000 a week depending on the turnout. He knew I was sleeping with his sister, but didn’t seem to mind - in fact I think he was happy with it, mentioning a couple of times that he was glad she wasn’t with one of the other dickheads from our school. All in all, for most of year ten life was genuinely good. I had two real friends and plenty of fake ones, I was making money without having to work for it, I could get drunk or high any day of the week, and most importantly I was getting laid.

        While I was living the high life, however, Jessie was really struggling. I’ve said before that I don’t feel guilty, but I do feel regret. And if there’s one thing I regret in my life, it’s my actions over the course of that year. While Jessie was still a popular kid at school, she was getting more and more despondent away from it. She’d always been a fairly forthright, honest person, and over time she came to hate the general bitching and backstabbing that went on amongst her so-called friends at St Martin’s College. In Eagle Hill not everybody would like you, but at least if they didn’t they had the guts to tell you to your face. She wasn’t cut out to deal with the lies and rumors that started behind your back every time you turned away in Lindfield.

        And just when she needed it most, she found that she had no-one to turn to at home. The reason behind my almost complete freedom was mum, who was taking up right where dad had left off with the drinking, and didn’t seem to care what I got up to so long as it kept me out of her hair. I don’t know if it was the divorce, the boredom, or the realization that she was washed up and jobless at forty (mum hadn’t worked since before I was born), but most nights I was home she would sit up by herself with a bottle of red and drink until she could either pick a fight with Jessie or cry herself to sleep.

        Mum wasn’t a violent drunk like dad, but she was an angry one, and she was very good at getting under Jessie’s skin. I took advantage of her distraction to spend as much time as possible doing whatever I wanted away from home, but Jessie was stuck there alone with her, as bad a situation as a fairly sensitive teenage girl could have found herself in. Her friends, she’d realized, were not real friends, and with me constantly away she had nobody to turn to. Pretty soon her depression had returned with a vengeance, and there was nothing for her to do but sit in her room and dwell on it.

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Chapter 2

It was over the summer holidays after year ten that my life turned to shit again. Me and Spike had made a lot of money over the previous year and a half, up maybe ten grand overall entirely through hosting parties, but we’d started to worry a lot of parents around the area in doing so. Spike’s dad was a good bloke - when people complained to him, he basically told them that kids were allowed to have fun, especially when it wasn’t doing anybody any harm. Unfortunately that wasn’t true, and it certainly didn’t satisfy the concerned mums and dads. The school more than frowned upon our activities as well, but we didn’t think anybody could do anything to stop us.

        My life was going brilliantly, but things were far from pleasant at home. Mum’s alcoholism was worsening by the week, and with it came increasingly biting insults and bitter recriminations. I was absolutely unaffected by this, ignoring her on the few occasions I was home and forgetting the whole situation when I wasn’t, but it was starting to take a heavy toll on Jessie. The depression was back, and she was becoming increasingly solitary, shutting everybody off, retreating to her room and only emerging for school and mealtimes. There were no tears or tantrums to tip me off, and thanks to my constant absence I remained oblivious for a couple of months. I’ve never been capable of empathy, and so it took me far longer than it should have to realize that Jessie was having some significant issues. Needless to say that is my greatest regret.

        It took a while, but towards the end of the school year I finally noticed that something was seriously wrong with my sister, and that mum wasn’t exactly in the best condition to support her. This put me in a difficult situation, because although I was keen to help Jessie, I recognized that I had little idea how to go about it, and anything I tried might backfire spectacularly. Regardless of my limitations I felt an obligation to make the attempt, and after consultation with Claire decided that the best idea would be to distract my sister from what was a pretty miserable home life. After consulting Spike, I started inviting her to our parties, letting her stay with me at his place, basically trying to keep her away from home as much as possible. I thought that if she could learn to ignore her problems they would quickly disappear - after all, it had always worked for me.

        For a few months my plan worked perfectly. Jessie liked Spike, and she and Claire got along very well. It seemed odd to me because they were almost polar opposites in character, but the girls quickly became good friends. Claire was about as rebellious a teenager as you could get - me and Spike were considered hard-core at school, but we were nothing compared to her. She was into the rave scene and had a good enough fake ID to get into a lot of the best clubs in the city. I know from experience that she was able to get her hands on ecstasy and cocaine on a fairly regular basis, managing to convince me to try both on a couple of occasions. Jessie was, I’m fairly sure, still a virgin, very rarely drank, and wouldn’t even think about touching a cigarette, let alone anything illegal. I’d been nervous that they’d rub each other up the wrong way, but within half an hour of their first meeting they were pretty much besties.

        Instead of studying for our upcoming exams, Spike and I had spent much of term four planning and advertising a massive party to celebrate the end of the school year. We knew his dad would be away again, and everybody was in the mood to relax and spend some money - conditions were perfect. He sent out an open invite on facebook, and some of his older mates from footy came along to help with security. We figured we’d probably take in about two and a half grand just in entry fees, and then at least double that selling drinks and drugs. We weren’t the smartest kids.

        Spike’s place was well and truly out of the city, a decent sized block up in the hills with no neighbors for at least a kilometer in any direction: the perfect place for a party of that magnitude. It was set on the edge of quite a steep hillside at the end of a long dirt road, and a tall barbed wire fence had always worked well to keep gatecrashers out. On the evening of the party Claire, for once, was not heading out to the city, so she and Jessie helped us set up the speakers and prepare a bonfire. Claire had broken it off with me about four months earlier, but we were still good friends and there were (as far as I knew at the time) no unresolved issues. I honestly don’t think mum knew or cared where me and Jessie were that evening.

        We ended up drawing more of a crowd than even I’d anticipated - I think we had over 400 people on the property by about 11:00. From a financial point of view that was great, a guaranteed $4000 for us without even considering the drinks we were selling. A couple of Spike’s mates were running an unofficial bar out of his dad’s shed up by the front gate, but most people had taken the hint to BYO.

        I spent most of the night chilling with Claire, drinking and talking about our plans for the summer. We were both trying to stay sober - we wanted to keep everybody out of the house to make sure nobody damaged anything or threw up inside, so we just hung around by the front door. I can remember her commenting at about 1:00 that the party was going pretty well. A couple of idiots had drunk a bit much and Spikes’ mates had kicked them out, but that was to be expected and we’d avoided any real fights or other problems.

        Literally five seconds after she said it, though, we heard a bit of a commotion coming from over near one of the bonfires. Neither of us knew what was going on - our view was blocked by a thick crowd and the music drowned out most of the shouting, but the excitement of the onlookers warned me that it couldn’t be good. It turned out that a guy from school had been getting far too friendly with Jessie, who’d thrown her drink over him to make it clear she was having none of it. He hadn’t taken that well, and started getting a bit aggressive.

        Me and Claire didn’t know any of that at the time, though - all we saw was Spike dropping the idiot with a punch and then kicking him half to death while he lay on the ground. I was still in a relatively sober state, and I could see that this was going to be a major issue. I ran over to Spike and pulled him off, trying to get him inside to cool down while Claire ushered Jessie away to make sure she was alright.

        At this point I noticed that a lot of people had started bailing out the front gate - I assumed it was because of the fight, but I was dead wrong. It wasn’t until I saw the flashing red and blue lights in the driveway that I realized what was happening - the music had drowned out the sirens and the crowd blocked the cop cars from view.

        To make a long story short, everything went about as badly as it could possibly have gone from that moment forth. One of the kids we’d kicked out had sobered up and decided he wanted revenge. He’d told his mum what happened, and she had tipped the police off to the fact that there was a massive, unsupervised party going on with lots of underage drinking. It was worse than that, though. The first officers got there in time to see the aftermath of Spike’s altercation with the kid who’d been harassing Jessie, and he was in a bad way. He suffered significant brain damage - deservedly so, I might add - and I don’t know if he ever remembered how to speak English. We were also selling drinks without a license, and to minors. With Spike’s dad away there was no adult supervision, and so the cops charged a lot of the kids they caught with trespassing when they couldn’t think of anything else. And just to top things off, when the first officer reached the back shed one of Spike’s idiot mates thought the guy was in costume and offered to sell him some weed. It didn’t go down well.

        I ended up getting off pretty lightly because there was nothing they could really pin me with except for underage drinking, and Spike agreed to take full credit for hosting the party. Claire got it worse - she lived there, so she ended up being held partially responsible for drug trafficking and serving alcohol without a license to minors. Spike, unfortunately, was completely screwed. He copped all of the charges that Claire did, as well as assault and grievous bodily harm - he was sentenced to six years in juvenile detention, transferred to a proper prison as soon as he turned eighteen and essentially fucked for life.

        I spent the night in lock-up, and it wasn’t until around 6:00 pm the next day that mum came and got me - I think she’d probably passed out the night before and was only just waking as the sun set. For the last few years of his life dad had been a functioning alcoholic, but mum had sunk far further. She was barely even trying to keep appearances up, staying sober just long enough to drop us at school on weekdays and occasionally do some grocery shopping. She yelled at me a bit for being an idiot and making her spend bail money, and it wasn’t until we got home that I realized that Jessie hadn’t shown up.

        Nobody knew where she was. Claire was the last person I’d seen her with, but she’d also been arrested the night before and hadn’t yet been bailed out. Nobody from the party knew anything about it, and none of them really wanted to talk to me anyway - hardly surprising given that half the people there had been fined for trespassing and underage drinking. There was nothing I could do but wait, eventually deciding at about midnight that I might as well make the long walk out to Spike’s place. I thought she might have been stuck there alone when everybody left, maybe waiting by the gate for me or mum to show up and give her a lift home. I was actually on my way out the front door when Jessie finally arrived, pale as a ghost and looking just as unhappy.

        To this day I don’t know exactly what happened to her after she left the party. I suspect that’s just as well, because if I knew specifics I might now be known for a lot worse than a couple of little murders. She was still in the clothes she’d been wearing the night before, there were twigs and grass in her hair, and it looked like she’d spent the rest of the night rolling around in the bush behind Spike’s place. She’d obviously been crying, but when I tried to talk she brushed straight past me and practically sprinted for her room. It was the only time she ever did that to me.

        I spent that night and the rest of the next day at home doing nothing. Mum was out of the house for once, enjoying an extended lunch with some old school friends, and I assumed that Jessie was busy sleeping the events of the last couple of days off in her room. I hadn’t tried speaking to her that morning, figuring she wouldn’t appreciate being woken early after such an eventful couple of days. Mum hadn’t checked in on either of us before leaving that morning, so Jessie must’ve been there for at least thirteen or fourteen hours before I found her.

        It was about three in the afternoon when I knocked on her bedroom door to see if she wanted any lunch. When she didn’t answer, I opened it. It was difficult to comprehend, at first, the amount of blood on the floor. Jessie was slumped on her bed, the knife she’d used lying there beside her, and big gashes across both wrists and her throat. Clearly, she hadn’t messed around once she decided to end it. I literally could not step into the room without ending up in the blood. It had soaked through her sheets, covered most of the floor, stained all her clothes and even spattered on the walls and ceiling. I didn’t bother checking for a pulse, just turned to find a phone and call the police.

        Like I said, I don’t know exactly what happened to Jessie because mum refused to let me see the police report, but I have a fair idea. For a girl who was already emotionally damaged, that was always going to be the last straw. I think, in the end, it was her own bravery that killed her. I know a lot of people say suicide is the cowards way out, but I don’t think many of them would actually have the courage to pull out a knife and slash it across their wrist. And then the other wrist. And then the throat.

        In almost every book there’s a loss of innocence moment, a time when the hero realizes they have to leave their fairy stories behind and join the real world. That had come a long time ago for me, but I think this was probably the moment that set my path for the future. Before that day, for all the coldness and contempt for my peers, I’d never been a violent kid. I’d only ever been in one proper fight outside a footy field, four years before when we were leaving Eagle Hill, and other than that I’d just cruised through life, drifting along the path of least resistance. I might still have followed the same trail had that night ended differently, but I certainly think Jessie’s death sped the process a little.

        The worst part of it was that I didn’t even manage to cry. There was regret, obviously, but not the gut-wrenching sense of loss you’re supposed to experience when somebody close to you dies. I know I should feel guilty that I never really worried about the absence of hurt after dad’s death, but with Jessie I really thought that I should have been able to cry at the very least, to give some outward sign that I had cared for her. But I guess, deep down, I didn’t. She’d been my friend, and then she was gone, and so I moved on.

        The one positive effect Jessie’s death had was to sober mum up. I don’t know if she realized exactly how much her drunken sniping had contributed to the suicide, but she certainly got her act together quickly enough after that. All of a sudden I was no longer allowed to disappear for days at a time without explanation, throw illegal parties or skip school to smoke weed. That meant I had a huge amount of free time on my hands. My sister was dead and my two best friends in jail, and with mum’s encouragement I used those empty hours to find a part time job at Subway, study properly for school, and focus more on tennis and footy. I might even have made a career in the AFL, but I wasn’t quite good enough for clubs to chase me, nor interested enough to seek any recruiters out.

        All the adults in my life seemed to believe that the tragedy had finally forced me to reevaluate my priorities and set out to live a good life, but it was more a reaction to boredom than a coping mechanism. I’d spent most of the past couple of years hanging out with Spike, getting high or planning a new scheme to make enough money to get high again. Either that, or banging his sister. Now that they were both in juvie I needed something else to occupy my time, and schoolwork was the only real option. It was certainly a new experience at any rate.

        My grades and job prospects flourished on the back of this newfound clean living and conscientious studying. My new job added a couple of thousand dollars to my already impressive savings account, I graduated high school with an excellent ENTER score, and I captained the tennis and footy teams to premierships in my last year. I think I even got my name on a couple of honor boards in the main hall, although I suspect they might have been taken down in light of recent events. 

        Somehow my popularity at school was actually boosted by the events of that fateful evening, and not just in sympathy for another family tragedy. A lot of those who hadn’t attended now thought I was a legend for helping host what they called the greatest party ever, but I couldn’t tolerate the thought of spending any unnecessary time with my classmates. I knew it was probably somebody in my year level who had raped my sister, and if I ever found him I was going to make his death the stuff of legend. I remember sitting in class studying all the guys around me, looking for some clue in their body language, a guilty look or a nervous tick which might give me the excuse I needed to take revenge. I’ve never really been into the sadistic aspect of criminal life, but I wanted to make somebody pay for what they’d done.

        Much to my disappointment I never did get the chance to do so. The final years of high school passed quietly by until the graduation ceremony, at which point I suddenly realized that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. With mum suddenly back at work and off the sauce my family, small as it had become, was finally stable, and I had good enough results to get into almost any uni course I chose. I was making decent money working four shifts a week at Subway, and to the outside world a successful future must have seemed assured.

        None of this mattered, however, because while all the kids around me had been mapping out their career paths and planning out a happy, boring existence in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, I’d just been drifting along with the crowd. I didn’t lack the capacity to plan for the future, just the interest. Every available option presented at the many career days and uni seminars bored me to the point I didn’t bother following any of them up, and about a week after my final exam it suddenly clicked that if I continued along my current trajectory I’d be broke and homeless by the age of twenty five. Even with my fatalistic outlook on life, that seemed a bleak and unsatisfactory option.

        About a week before uni preferences were due, I heard about officer training. The scholarship basically meant that the army would pay my fees for a course at uni, after which I would graduate and head straight into active service. By training with the army reserves during holidays and on weekends I could reach Lieutenant in about five years if I put my mind to it. Luckily I’d avoided a criminal record, with only a misdemeanor for drug possession, and it seemed the perfect course for somebody who needed a future planned out for them.

        So that’s the boring part over, the tale of me growing up. I suppose, looking back on it, that my childhood experiences must have had some sort of effect on both my character and later career, but you have to understand that I cared very little about anything I’ve just described. I think it’s been overplayed in a lot of the media since my trial (and yes, I do read my own press) - after all, in a good story the anti-hero needs some sort of motivation for their crimes. So don’t worry, the real story’s about to begin, the reason you all picked this book up. You sick freaks.

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