- Woman: I just want to state for the record that I'm against this, and you don't have permission to record my voice.
- Nic: Okay. Got it.
- Woman: Okay.
- Nic: You'll have to leave.
- Woman: I'm not going anywhere.
- Nic: Then I'm afraid I'm gonna have to record your voice.
- Woman: Fine.
Nic: That's the mystery woman who asked me to meet her in the parking garage in our last episode. We're going to take you to that meeting and a whole lot more very soon, I promise.
From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it's Tanis. I'm Nic Silver. We're telling the story of Tanis in order, every two weeks. So if you haven't listend to the first five episodes, go back and start there. We'll try not to get too far ahead by the time you get back.
Nic: Last week we discovered Vincent Pardo, a seemingly seriously ill man had purchased some kind of camping trip with Carl van Sant. Also, Julie Sanders, the editor of the unpublished novel Pacifica, revealed that the author of that book was a woman named Morgan Miller.
We'll be digging deeper into both Vincent Pardo and Morgan Miller. And of course, we'll introduce you to the mystery woman in that parking garage. But first, we're headed to Texas, and back in time to the end of the 19th century, to Austin. Called "The City of the Violet Crown" for the violet glow across the hills that takes place in wintertime, just after sunset.
Recently, the FBI ranked Austin second on a list of the safest cities in America. But back in 1885, things were much different. Austin was a place of cowboy ambition and mysterious cool. William Porter, better known as the writer O. Henry, living in Austin at the time, called Austin "Fearfully dull." That is, until the arrival of a serial killer he referred to as "The Servant Girl Annihilator."
It's commonly understood in Austin that the moontowers, one of which featured beautifully in Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, were built in response to the servant girl murders. However, in reality, the moontowers weren't erected until 10 years after the violent killings took place. And it bears mentioning again, the Servant Girl Annihilator killings were violent. Very violent.
All of the victims were attacked while sleeping in their beds. Most were dragged outside, unconscious but alive, then severely mutilated before finally being murdered and posed with sharp objects inserted into their ears.
More than 400 men were arrested during the course of the year. This was three years before Jack the Ripper, and serial killers hadn't yet entered the public imagination. They were looking for a group of killers, the possibilty that one man was capable of this much evil was, at the time, beyond comprehension.
There were a variety of suspects, including Nathan Elgin, a 19 year old kitchen worker who was shot and killed by police while assaulting a girl with a knife. And a mysterious "yellow man", who wore lampblack to conceal his skin color. There were also reports of a man wearing a Mother Hubbard style dress. But of all the suspects, the person we're most interested in is a Malay cook named Maurice, who had been working on a variety of ships prior to arriving in Austin.
Maurice had spent a great deal of time in the Pacific Northwest, the Puget Sound area in particular. A woman named Mrs. Schmidt, who ran the Pearl House at the time, rememebered Maurice. Mainly because of the strange stories he told her about the voice in the woods. A voice that told him he would never die. Mrs. Schmidt says she was relieved when Maurice left, and interestingly, the servant girl murders stopped immediately after he boarded a ship bound for England.
Three days after his ship arrived in London, Mary Ann Nichols was killed in Whitechapel, the first of the notoroious Jack the Ripper murders.
So there's a little bit of moonlight shed on a dark corner of American, and perhaps British history as well. Meanwhile, back in our time, in our corner of America, the Pacific Northwest, MK had some information on the two silver cars that had been parked outside of the Pacific Northwest Studios the evening I received that mysterious Skype call.
- Meerkatnip: I feel like a plot device in a cop show.
- Nic: You told me you could run those plates!
- Meerkatnip: (laughs) Uh, I would never use the term "run those plates."
- Nic: Okay, well you said you have a friend who worked at the DMV.
- Meerkatnip: That sounds more like me.
- Nic: Okay... Did your friend find them? The plates?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, he sure did. But I don't think you're gonna like it.
- Nic: No? Why not?
- Meerkatnip: Well, they're both registered to the same company.
- Nic: Well that's kind of ...strange.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah!
- Nic: What company?
- Meerkatnip: It's numbered.
- Nic: They're... both cars a registered to a numbered company?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, it's a shell for a bigger company.
- Nic: What's the bigger company called?
- Meerkatnip: Well, that's where it gets weird.
- Nic: How weird?
- Meerkatnip: It's a maze of corporations. I've honestly never seen anything like it. I tracked the ownership to an empty industrial complex on the edge of town, the place has been empty for years. And I used a nearby CCT camera and zoomed into undeliverable mail sitting outside the door.
- Nic: You can do that?
- Meerkatnip: You have to ask?
- Nic: (laughs)
- Meerkatnip: Anyway, there were a lot of different names and numbered companies, but one name looks familiar.
- Nic: Let me guess...
- Meerkatnip: You won't get it.
- Nic: TeslaNova Corporation.
- Meerkatnip: Nope.
- Nic: ...Really? I thought for sure...
- Meerkatnip: No. I told you you wouldn't get it.
- Nic: Okay. Uh, what company?
- Meerkatnip: Parzavala Communications.
- Nic: That sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
- Meerkanip: Mmhm, it's the now-defunct internet service provider mentioned on the Fish and Tackle bulletin board.
- Nic: Right. They were... hiring, looking for...
- Meerkatnip: Yup.
- Nic: Was there any other information?
- Meerkatnip. No, but I'm working on it.
- Nic: What about the man who sent that letter to Carl van Sant, Vincent Pardo?
- Meerkatnip: Working on it.
- Nic: Okay, thanks.
- Meerkatnip: Yup
- (Skype disconnects)
(911 dispatch plays in the background with indistinct voices)
Nic: While MK makes her way through a web of corporate red tape, we're going to reexamine the suicide of Carl van Sant.
Nic: I called his brother Geoff, with a few new questions.
- Geoff: Hello.
- Nic: Hey Geoff, it's Nic!
- Geoff: Hey buddy, what's up?
- Nic: You know, still trying to make sense of this... whatever this thing is.
- Geoff: (laughs) Tanis?
- Nic: Yup, Tanis.
- Geoff: Yeah, I've been listening to your show, it's great. You know, even with everything that happened with Carl, it's pretty cool.
- Nic: Aw, thanks! Thanks for listening.
- Geoff: So what do you need? What can I do to help?
- Nic: Well, I'm not sure. I just wanted to run a few things by you if that's okay.
- Geoff: Yeah it's okay, go ahead.
- Nic: Well. So you got in touch because we posted that Craigslist ad.
- Geoff: Right.
- Nic: And in the messages we exchanged while my producers and I were setting up that first meeting, you said that you heard that we were looking for one of the crazy things your brother was into.
- Geoff: That's right, yeah.
- Nic: Okay. How did you hear, exactly?
- Geoff: How do you mean?
- Nic: I mean, were you looking for things online? Things uh, related to your brother's interests?
- Geoff: (scoffs) No, not a chance.
- Nic: Okay, so then how did you hear about the Craigslist ad, exactly?
- Geoff: Email.
- Nic: Email. Like a Google alert for the word "tanis" or something?
- Geoff: No, it's was an email with a link to that ad.
- Nic: And who was the email from?
- Geoff: (takes a breath) Uh, it's kinda weird.
- Nic: It's kinda weird? How's it weird?
- Geoff: Well, it was from my brother.
- Nic: It was from your brother?
- Geoff: I mean, of course it couldn't have been my brother. It was obviously somebody messing around.
- Nic: Right.
- Geoff: That's why I opened it.
- Nic: Of course. Was there anything else in the message, any text or?
- Geoff: No, just a link to your ad.
- Nic: Just the link, message?
- Geoff: Just the link.
- Nic: And you're sure it was from your brother's email address?
- Geoff: Exactly. That's why I opened it.
- Nic: Um, so did you call the police or anything?
- Geoff: Yeah, I called. They asked me to forward the message for Carl's file, I did. They said there really wasn't anything to be done.
- Nic: Right. Um. Now, okay. I don't know how this is going to sound, if this is out of line maybe. Probably.
- Geoff: What is it, man? Go.
- Nic: Well. I don't know how it works when someone passes away. But, do you get, like from the police, do you get your brother's email password information?
- Geoff: I mean they do their best to you know, get you information related to banking and you know, personal stuff like that. I'm sure I can probably dig up his email password for ya.
- Nic: Really? Are you sure it's not too invasive? I don't...
- Geoff: I'll dig it up and send it your way.
- Nic: Thanks so much, Geoff.
- Geoff: Yeah, no problem.
- Nic: You're sure?
- Geoff: Wanna go for a beer sometime or what?
- Nic: You're sure it's okay?
- Geoff: (laughs) Yes! I'm sure!
- Nic: Okay. Yeah, a beer...
- Geoff: You're embarrassing yourself.
- Nic: A beer, definitely.
- Geoff: (laughs) Believe it when I see ya.
- Nic: Okay. Take care.
- Geoff: Okay, bye.
- Nic: Bye.
Nic: Geoff sent along his brother's email address and password. I'm not sure if this is going to be surprising or not at this point, but there was nothing there. Aside from three messages from Google, welcoming Carl to Gmail. It had been reset. Geoff said he thought it was strange, but had no idea what happened. I asked MK if there was anything she could dig up.
- Meerkatnip: Weird.
- Nic: Yeah.
- Meerkatnip: Not that it was wiped, but that it never existed in the first place.
- Nic: Geoff has emails in that account from his brother, I forwarded copies to you.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah I know, that's the weirdest part! So this address clearly existed at some point, but. It's like they took a time machine back to the first day he set up this account. It's like, the timestamp is from more than a decade ago.
- Nic: How is that possible?
- Meerkatnip: I have no idea.
- Nic: Really? So you couldn't do that?
- Meerkatnip: I couldn't do that.
- Nic: Really?
- Meerkatnip: Really. I mean, I can make you believe that I did that, but I couldn't make somebody like me believe it.
- Nic: (laughs) Okay. Um, so this hack is pretty convicing then?
- Meerkatnip: It's not a hack, it's a perfect source reset. This account has never been used.
- Nic: So... a dead end.
- Meerkatnip: Total dead end. Except, we have new information.
- Nic: Oh really? What's that?
- Meerkatnip: That these people are serious.
- Nic: Right.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah. There's something else.
- Nic: What is it?
- Meerkatnip: The computer used to install and access Skype on your work terminal?
- Nic: Yeah?
- Meerkatnip: I tracked the IP address to the Ukraine where they were running through a series of proxies. I wasn't able to find the person who did it.
- Nic: No?
- Meerkatnip: No. Whoever this is, they're good. But I was able to access the search history.
- Nic: Okay! Uh...
- Meerkatnip: The person who hacked your work computer was also looking into Carl van Sant's death.
(Police dispatch chatter in the background. Woman: Officer holding 45976 in the main office. 43626...)
Nic: So somebody else is looking into Carl van Sant's death. On a somewhat related topic, MK wasn't able to dig up much on Vincent Pardo, the man who contact Carl about purchasing something I suspect was health-related.
- Meerkatnip: All I could find was his sister, in Olympia.
- Nic: Washington?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, where else?
- Nic: Right.
- Meerkatnip: You might have to do some kind of... in-person thing if you want to find out more. I sent you the info.
- Nic: Cool, I'll give her a call.
- Meerkatnip: You do that! Good luck.
- Nic: Okay, thanks (Skype disconnects) for...
Nic: I called and left a message for Vincent Pardo's sister. In the meantime, I did find something interesting at the library.
We were looking through microfiche and newspapers for references to TeslaNova Corporation, Parzavela Communications, and Vincent Pardo. We narrowed our search to the past 10 years. I had both of our interns and two of my coproducers working on this thing as well. It was a full-time job. We took turns alternating between the newspapers and the microfiche machines. When our hands turned black from the newsprint, we would switch places.
On the fourth day, one of our interns found something. It was, not surprisingly I suppose, a classified ad. It was a newspaper from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The ad was succint, "Join Parzavela Communications for our annual corporate retreat. Reply per instructions." There was a phone number, that was it. We went through back issues of the same newspaper and discovered a similar ad had been listed every year. Same text, same phone number. So, of course, I called the number.
(Indistinct recorded chatter)
- Meerkatnip: So what, it's a phone number.
- Nic: Yeah. It's my phone number.
- Meerkatnip: Yours? Like, from the phone that you're using?
- Nic: That's right.
- Meerkatnip: Holy shit.
- Nic: Yeah. It just keeps repeating my phone number over and over until I hang up.
- Meerkatnip: That's... creepy.
- Nic: Yeah, pretty creepy.
- Meerkatnip: Okay, I wouldn't call it again.
- Nic: No.
- Meerkatnip: Okay hold on (sighs). That number's listed as Parzavela Communications' technical support.
- Nic: Of course it is.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah.
- Nic: Anything else?
- Meerkatnip: Mmm, no, just a few references to tech support, nothing else.
- Nic: And nothing else on Parzavela itself?
- Meerkatnip: No, just that they haven't been active for ages. Like zero web presence, and the industrial complex we looked at earlier is the only physical address listed anywhere.
- Nic: Okay. Uh, thanks.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, no problem. Oh, there's one more thing.
- Nic: Okay.
- Meerkatnip: Strange Worlds magazine.
- Nic: What about it?
- Meerkatnip: It doesn't exist.
- Nic: (frustrated sigh) Well that's not true, I have a copy. The first issue, actually.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, one issue.
- Nic: One issue, I don't understand.
- Meerkatnip: I found a few ads but they only referenced one issue, number one.
- Nic: Just number one?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah.
- Nic: So, what, they folded after the first issue?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, it looks like it. But it's strange...
- Nic: Strange? How strange?
- Meerkatnip: The cover artist claims that they can't remember this particular image being used for anything.
- Nic: So, maybe they forgot.
- Meerkatnip: Maybe.
- Nic: I don't think that's all that strange.
- Meerkatnip: Yeah, I guess not. I just thought you'd want to know.
- Nic: Thanks.
- Meerkatnip: No worries! Later.
Nic: I did manage to track down some information on the magazine. It turns out they did fold after one issue. They were bought out and shuttered by a company that, of course, no longer exists.
While I was looking into that magazine, I finally received a call from Vincent Pardo's sister.
- Nic: Hello, is this Carmen?
- Carmen: It is.
- Nic: Great. Well, thank you so much for calling me back.
- Carmen: No problem at all.
- Nic: So, like I mentioned in my message, we're looking into the apparent suicide of a man named Carl van Sant. (long pause) Um. Did Vincent ever mention Carl van Sant to you?
- Carmen: (long pause) Yes.
- Nic: Do you mind telling me what you can remember?
- Carmen: My brother was sick. He was looking for a miracle cure. You know, like those people who go to Mexico when they get cancer? Like, the Apple Computer guy?
- Nic: So your brother had cancer?
- Carmen: Yes. People like Carl prey on sick people like Vincent. He kept feeding him lies, making him impossible promises. Expensive, ridiculous promises.
- Nic: Promises like what?
- Carmen: Eternal life. The Fountain of Youth. It was all Vincent would talk about near the end. He was paying for some kind of ... special treatment.
- Nic: Um, what kind of treatment?
- Carmen: He... didn't say exactly. He just got all quiet and smiled whenever I brought it up. Until he ran out of money.
- Nic: And what happened then?
- Carmen: He came to me.
- Nic: So he wanted to borrow money?
- Carmen: More money, yes.
- Nic: More money. And um, what happened then?
- Carmen: Well. I said no. And Vincent got angry. Really angry. He told me I didn't understand, that where he was going was special. That it would change everything.
- Nic: Did he say anything about where he was going specifically?
- Carmen: Just that it was a secret and that he would be healed.
- Nic: Can you remember anything at all about this treatment, anything your brother might have mentioned about Carl van Sant?
- Carmen: Just that it involved leaving the city and that it was expensive. Oh, and... there was something else. He kept referrng to Carl as his guide. It was weird. Sorry, not his guide, his... runner.
- Nic: Wait. Wait, he called Carl van Sant his runner?
- Carmen: Yeah. Weird, I know.
- Nic: Uh. Well. Thank you so much for speaking with me. Um, if you can think of anything else, please call or email. I'd really appreciate it.
- Carmen: Sure.
- Nic: And I'm really sorry about your brother. Cancer is a terrible disease.
- Carmen: Oh, cancer didn't kill vincent.
- Nic: No?
- Carmen: No. His cancer was actually in remission.
- Nic: Oh. I thought, because the...
- Carmen: No. He was killed in a hit and run.
- Nic: He was killed in a hit and run?
- Carmen: They never found the driver, but...
- Nic: But?
- Carmen: (pause) But I know it had something to do with that Carl.
- Nic: With, with Carl? Why would you say that?
- Carmen: Just a feeling. I ... don't think my brother's death was an accident, and here you are asking about Carl van Sant. He committed suicide you say?
- Nic: Yes.
- Carmen: There was just something off about the whole thing. It just felt bad. Wrong.
- Nic: Wrong?
- Carmen: Yeah.
Nic: So that was Carmen Pardo. She was convinced her brother had been scammed by Carl somehow. That Vincent believed Carl could provide some kind of miracle cure or something similar. The fact that he referred to Carl as a runner was obviously signficant considering what we've learned so far. But she didn't seem to know anything else. I spoke with Vincent's doctor. She wasn't willing to be recorded, but she did indicate that Vincent's cancer had indeed been in remission at the time of his death.
- Alex: Day two. It's early. The sun has yet to rise. The others are eating. I'm not hungry. I can't help but feel trepidation. I don't know how all of this is going to sound to you. I'm tired, I didn't get any sleep last night because of the (long pause) the sounds. They started an hour or so after we went to sleep. Distant, strange whooping noises that seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. And closer to my tent, the snapping of branches. My adreneline was up and down, my heart racing as I opened my tent and looked out into the blackness. Even the night feels green somehow, a dark forboding green. I don't know how to explain it exactly. The runner says she knows where we are, but I'm not sure. I honestly don't know if I could find my way back.
- The woods aren't that thick here at the camp. At least, not as thick as the entry point. But they seem to go on... forever. The green is thick and dark. Even the birch trees feel thicker and... different. And there's a smell. Not quite like the ocean, but like... a kind of water. A singular kind of humidity. I'm not sure I've smelled anything like it before. Something feels different this morning. An invisible mist, a kind of hum, a tremor deep inside my body. But, I don't know. It's probably just lack of sleep. The others look uncertain as well, resigned to moving forward, but they lack a certain... alertness. We're all missing the confidence of earlier. The group that woke up here this morning is compeltely different from the original assembly that set out two days ago. The camp is quiet, I haven't heard more than a few words. We're packed and ready. The runner returns from wherever she was, and we start to move forward, towards something. Into the darkness that will, hopefully, soon become light.
(Ambient music with the wind blowing over it)
Nic: I received a phone call from a very concerned MK. She'd found something on Morgan Miller, or rather, she continued to find nothing on Morgan Miller.
- Meerkatnip: (sighs) It's frustrating!
- Nic: She's still a ghost?
- Meerkatnip: Yeah!
- Nic: Maybe she just isn't into social media?
- Meerkatnip: Having no social media is a red flag for sure, but this is way deeper than that. This is really strange. Ghosts like this are ... way suspicious.
- Nic: Really?
- Meerkatnip: Abso-fucking-lutely. It's not cool.
- Nic: You're really passionate about this stuff.
- Meerkatnip: I told you, I don't like ghosts.
Nic: Okay, MK didn't find anything on Morgan Miller. This brings us back to the beginning, to that parking garage, and to the next part of our story.
You'll remember I was recording some narration for this show when somebody hijacked my computer and told me to go to the parking garage. I switched on my portable recorder, and well, you can hear the rest for yourself.
- Nic: So, I'm entering the parking garage. Nobody is immediately visible, I'm sure... someone's just... playing a game or something. Hello?
- Woman: Hey.
- Nic: (gasps) Jesus, you scared the shit out of me.
- Man: Hey.
- Nic: (gasps) How many people are behind that pillar?
- Woman: This is Sam.
- Nic: Sam?
- Woman: Sam Reynolds?
- Man revealed to be Sam: Tara's my sister.
- Woman: You need to stop.
- Nic: Wait. Your sister is Tara Reynolds?
- Sam: Yeah.
- Nic: What, stop what?
- Woman: Your show. Your digging. You... you're fucking everything up.
- Nic: What are you talking about?
- Woman: You have no idea what you're doing.
- Nic: Okay. Um. So, what am I doing?
- Woman: They're watching you. They're going to... they're gonna make you stop. I'm warning you for our sake as well as yours.
- Nic: For yours?
- Sam: Yeah, Tara, my sister.
- Nic: Have you heard anything from Tara? Anything about the cabin, or?
- Woman: That's what I'm talking about! We're never going to be able to find Tara if you keep poking around and drawing all this... attention.
- Nic: You said someone's going to make me stop. Who's going to make me stop?
- Woman: Have your pick. The company, the Cult of Tanis, some independant operator like Carl van Sant.
- Nic: The company? What company?
- Woman: Just. Stop, okay?
- Nic: Wait, did you say "the Cult of Tanis"?
- Woman: Just. Leave it.
- Nic: Okay! Please, I'll stop recording! Morgan!
Nic: Okay, well. She did eventually give me permission to use her voice, but not to record the conversation that took place later. Morgan Miller explained that Pacifica came from her dream journals. It wasn't orginally Firefly fanfiction, but she changed the names and a bit of the plot, and it just seemed to fit. She was a huge Firefly fan and wanted to contribute something to fandom surrounding that universe.
After the Avery Ellis thing, she began to notice people following her all the time. She was an only child and her parents died when she was really young. Back around the dawn of the millennium, it wasn't as hard to keep yourself offline. And when the people following her began to get more persistent, and less inconspicuous, she went underground. She disappeared.
She was working as a server under an assumed name in Pittsburgh when Sam Reynolds tracked her down. After a lot of convincing, she eventually agreed to help Sam find his sister. Apparently they had been looking for Carl van Sant and that's what led them to us.
The day after the meeting in the parking garage, I was able to record another very illuminating interview with Morgan Miller. That's coming up on our next episode. It's Tanis. I'm Nic Silver. We'll be back again in two weeks. Until then, keep looking.
Nic: Tanis is a Minnow Beats Whale and Pacific Northwest Stories production. Produced by Terry Miles. Produced, mixed and edited by me, Nic Silver. Executive producers Terry Miles and Paul Bae. As always, listen to The Black Tapes Podcast at blacktapespodcast.com.
For legal and safety reasons, we've elected to change some names, and leave others out entirely. We don't do this very often, but we're not willing to compromise people's safety for any reason.
Thanks again for listening to Tanis.