The call comes in to Agent Smint early on the morning of September 10th – a body has been discovered at Yarra Bend Park, not far from the secret B Wing offices in Northcote. The body is badly decomposed, as if it had been rotting for weeks – but has been identified as a park groundskeeper that was alive and at work just last night. Smint calls Dr Cavendish and Abul Abin Aziz, who come to meet him at the doctor’s lab, where Onyx is currently recuperating in the infirmary. After breakfast at the lab, the team decide to split up again – Abul and Cavendish head to the Victoria Police Centre in Flinders Street to examine the body, while Smint and Onyx go to Yarra Bend to investigate the crime scene.
It’s a wet morning in the Park, thanks to heavy rains the day before, and police have blocked the access bridge over the Eastern Freeway; fortunately Smint’s credentials let him enter and take charge of the scene. The body was found in the mini-golf area of the Yarra Bend Golf Course, near the centre of the Park; the sergeant on the scene tells Smint that the body was horrifically decomposed to the point of leaking fluids and falling apart. Onyx reads the sergeant’s memories of the body and realises that the groundskeeper’s decomposition obscured the fact that he bore defensive wounds – the man was attacked by something. Smint examines the scene and finds a strange footprint under part of the mini-golf range, long and thin like a kangaroo’s but with large claws at the toes. Before they can investigate further, the Golf Course manager, Roger Overton, arrives to petition the police to re-open the park for business; Smint and Onyx persuade the sergeant to take Overton away for questioning. With the police gone, they decide to search for whatever attacked the groundskeeper; Onyx knows (somehow) of a hidden gully and cave in the far reaches of the park, near the Freeway, and they set off to explore.
At the Police Centre, Cavendish shows his temporary B Wing credentials to gain access to the Morgue. The body is in a shocking state, flesh rotted away to bone and covered in sores and cankers, maggots crawling in its wounds. As medical science struggles for answers, Abul tries a different route and uses magic to view the man’s death; she has a vision where she sees him running panicked through the park at night, hiding in the mini-golf area and then being attacked, bitten and killed by a horrible creature – a pallid humanoid with spindly limbs, a distended belly, red slime across its legs and groin and a great triangular jaw filled with broken teeth. (Before her vision ends, she gets the sensation that some presence has become aware of her.) It reminds her of the ghuls of Arabic myth, which dwell in burial grounds and drink blood. Cavendish searches online to see whether there are any cemeteries in the Yarra Bend region and discovers the Wikipedia entry for the old Yarra Bend Asylum – its cemetery was buried and covered up decades ago by… a practice fairway of the Golf Course. He phones Smint with the information, and he and Abul get ready to join them. Just before they leave the morgue, he checks a sample of the victim’s blood and realises what has happened to the body – it’s been broken down by some strange, super-rapid form of syphilis.
Smint and Onyx explore the far corner of the Golf Course, now on the lookout for open graves as well as the cave. They find a strangely quiet region by the banks of the Yarra, and Onyx projects his senses back through time to see the course engulf the old cemetery not far from where they stand – and further back still, to a time when Aboriginal warriors and elders imprisoned the creature under a sacred rock on the same site. (Smint is unnerved by this, and his suspicious about Onyx return.) As they investigate the site further, Smint sees a glint of light from a tree, and realises that some kind of apparatus has been placed about three metres up, and that wires connect some of the trees. The two of them argue about who should investigate, but under some telepathic pressure Smint takes the lead, climbing the tree as Onyx waits below. He finds five trees connected by copper wires in the form of a pentagram, with red sealing wax at their junctures; the pentagram is connected to an old Walkman, taped to the tree, with a tape in it and PAUSE depressed.
Smint hesitates a moment, then pushes PLAY – just as the creature bursts from the undergrowth and lunges at Onyx!