Penny Blood Side Stories #3

By Ari Lee


A Study Compiled by Dr. Franz Eugene

Last Edited on Jan 5, 1920


The following is a compilation of select entries from the Axeman’s personal journal, which was recovered following his induction into the Hellhounders. These accounts are to serve as a record of his image in the public eye as well as the Axeman’s personal perspective on himself in the hope that we may better understand his psychological motivations.


I will begin with a list of the Louisiana murders that have been attributed to the Axeman by the press:


May 23, 1918 – Joseph Maggio, an Italian grocer, and his wife Catherine Maggio. The couple was found with their throats cut. Catherine’s throat in particular had almost been completely removed from her shoulders. Catherine is thought to have died immediately after the attack, while Joseph died minutes after being discovered by his brothers.


June 27, 1918 – Louis Besumer, an Italian grocer, and his mistress Harriet Lowe. Besumer was struck in the right temple by a hatchet, while Lowe was struck above her right ear. The couple was found in the morning by a delivery boy. Harriet Lowe died several months later due to a failed surgery, but not before accusing Louis of being her attacker. Louis was charged with murder and served nine months in prison before his acquittal on May 1, 1919.


August 5, 1918 – Anna Schneider. The pregnant woman was found covered in blood caused by a wound to the scalp, but survived and gave birth to a healthy baby afterwards. The murder weapon in this case is thought to have been a lamp, and like the other killings, nothing was stolen from the house.


August 10, 1918 – Joseph Romano, an elderly man who lived with his two nieces. The noise from the late-night attack caused his nieces to awaken and rush to his room, where they briefly saw the assailant fleeing. He succumbed to his severe head injuries two days later. It was from this incident onwards that the police began to link the killings together, and New Orleans flew into an uproar with rumors spreading about a bloodthirsty Axeman.


March 10, 1919 – Charles and Rosie Cortimiglia, as well as their two-year-old daughter, Mary. Both adults managed to survive, but their daughter perished from a direct blow to the back of her neck while she was sleeping in her mother’s arms. Rosie later incriminated two unrelated men as her attackers, and despite her husband’s denial of his wife’s claims, the police arrested and charged the two men with the murder. After being found guilty, one of the men was sentenced to hang while the other received life in prison. Charles divorced his wife, and a year later, Rosie admitted that her accusations had been false.


Shortly after this killing, the Axeman reportedly sent a letter to the newspapers claiming that he would kill again at fifteen minutes past midnight on March 19 if the town failed to ‘jazz it up’. This caused people to flock to New Orleans’ bars and dance halls, filling them to the brim, while musicians were hired to play jazz at house parties all throughout the city. No murders occurred on March 19.


August 10, 1919 – Steve Boca, a grocer. He survived despite getting his head cracked open, but reported to the police that he had no memory of the incident.


September 3, 1919 – Sarah Lauhmann, a 19-year old woman who lived alone. She was found on her bed with a severe head injury and missing teeth. A bloody axe was left in front of the building where she lived, but she also reported having no memory of the attack.


October 27, 1919 – Mike Pepitone, a father of six. The noise from the attack woke his wife, who reported to the police that she saw a large man with an axe fleeing the scene. Mike was the only one from his family who was attacked and he did not survive. Mike’s murder is the last of the murders that the police attributed to the Axeman. The killer’s identity was never identified, nor was he ever apprehended.


The following is an excerpt from a local newspaper article:


The Axeman is at work again. Satiated with the blood of nearly a dozen victims, he rested a month but the craze to kill drove him through the city’s streets once more on Friday night. He climbed the fence – police afterwards found bare footprints on it – dropped to the grocery yard and began to attack one of the panels of the door. This is his favorite way of obtaining entrance.


These lurid articles combined with the rumors and everyday fear built the faceless Axeman up into a demon of folklore always present somewhere in the city, ever crazed and thirsting for blood, ensuring that no one would ever be safe – especially if they weren’t a lover of jazz.


But what of the real Axeman? As shown above, the alleged Axeman murders are haphazard both in frequency, target and efficacy. We can see some potential patterns, such as a majority of the victims being of Italian heritage, grocers, and married. The Axeman didn’t even use an axe in all of his purported crimes. Why did he attack with such ferocity, only to leave certain victims alive? Why did he never steal anything from the crime scenes? Why the obsession with jazz?


These were the questions that first phased into my mind when I learned of the Axeman. After performing further research and speaking with Sariel, I came up with a hypothesis of my own. The chaotic, haphazard nature of the man’s crimes… Perhaps it made perfect sense that he would be a connoisseur of jazz. The frenzied nature of the music may serve as a soothing outward representation of his own frenetic psyche. Perhaps the Axeman is in possession of a powerful, destructive spirit that he has no hope of controlling on his own. Perhaps he could prove to be a powerful ally to us.


There was no telling what we would find when we journeyed to New Orleans, so we had Vito and Darya accompany us. When we finally located the Axeman, we came face to face with a hulking creature of a man, far more beast than human at first glance. Yet within his eyes, I witnessed an intelligent gleam that no animal could ever possess. In the end, the Axeman proved to be everything I had hoped for and more.


Let these excerpts from the Axeman’s diary serve as a blueprint to who he really is – what makes him tick, what motivates him, so that we may better help him utilize his extraordinary talents in the future.


August 17, 1918


The darkness is warm. It embraces like a soft blanket, freeing a man of all preconceived notions of identity or societal obligation. In the darkness, a man is free. Many speak of following the light, or of a guiding light to lead humanity, but is it not the light that blinds? In the dark, one can see only what’s directly in front of them – all else ceases to matter. I would argue that darkness is indeed the hero’s mantle, and that it is only through the power of darkness that evil may be wholly vanquished.


I can feel the blackness crawl over me, coating my flesh in its dusky tapestry. I am no longer myself. As I sink into it, I become the night.


I slink up to the back of the evil man’s house. A dim orange glow permeates out from the white lace curtains inside the window to his kitchen. An evil monster who abuses his nieces has no right to a warm hearth. No right to live.


In the stillness of the night, I crouch under the window and listen to the sounds from inside. The occasional shuffling of feet, the murmurs, the scratchy sounds of their radio. No laughter, no jazz to be heard. I know exactly what they’re doing. I’ve watched them for the past several weeks. I know their habits, when they go to sleep, what they eat for breakfast, what they throw out in their trash. I know them, and yet they do not know me. Their house becomes their cage.


Once I can hear nothing but constant silence emanating from the house, I pull my chisel out from my pocket and slowly begin to chip away at a wood panel on the bottom of the back door. All in all, it takes me half an hour to remove it, but I never hurry. The darkness protects all who accept it.        


With the portal open, I crawl through like a blacksnake in the grass, smoothly and with great intent, never tarrying or disrupting my rhythm. Quickly, I rise to my feet and scan the house for a weapon among items that are kept so casually within every house: a rake, a hammer, a saw…an axe.


I can hear the animalistic sound of snoring trickle out from the room next to the living room as I move into it. The girls are surely fast asleep upstairs, as they always are. I glance to the banister and the staircase that leads upstairs, hoping that they will find safety after I am gone.


Slowly, like a craftsman painstakingly applying his final touches to his latest masterpiece, I turn the knob to the bedroom door and silently slide the door open. My body obscures what faint light might trickle into the dark sleeping chamber, and I feel the dark tendrils reach out and draw me back into my element.


There he sleeps. The loathsome, decaying excuse for a man lies curled up with a quilt on a white-sheeted single bed in the corner of the darkness, a bottle of whiskey at his side. Timing my own steps to the rhythm of his inhalations and exhalations, I creep closer, clutching in my hands the man’s own axe, freshly pilfered from his own kitchen. My eyes acclimate to the blackness. Once I reach his bedside, I can make out the contours of his face and smell the whiskey on his breath.


I grip the axe in both of my hands and raise it high, at long last letting my rage bubble to the surface. Hours, days, and months of grueling patience, all for this moment. But as I release the beast inside me, I bring peace to the world. I relish in my violence, for it is not senseless. My infernal itch shall help to cleanse the world of its many sins.


I am a good person.


But perhaps I am overzealous. As I swing the axe down, the man awakens, wide-eyed and delirious. He begins to shift. The axe strikes true, but in the side of his head – far from optimal. Blood bubbles out from the gash as he begins to struggle. Feeling my feverish anger subsiding, I desperately swing the axe down a second time. Another gash, another splatter. I hear footsteps rushing down from upstairs. My time is up.


I drop the axe and dash through the living room as I hear the two girls stomp down the stairs, hat held low and coat collar pulled up over my face. When I explode through the door into the darkness, I can hear their screams behind me. I am sorry they had to see the gore, but I hope they come to understand it was for their own good. For the good of the world.


Enshrouded in the darkness once more, rage now spent, I feel calm rush over me. Crouched, I creep back through the alley to the opposite street, where Doc’s car awaits.


August 19, 1918


I would like to apologize about the needlessly visceral and disorganized account in my previous writings. While I have penned numerous romance and adventure stories, this is my first attempt at chronicling my own life, and I daresay this new venture has been a challenge. When I first pondered the task of relating my thoughts and achievements to you through the written word, I naturally sought to describe key events in my career in the most painstaking of details. Upon finishing the first entry, however, I realized that this task would take weeks upon weeks, if not months, were I to continue my endeavor at such a minute level. Furthermore, such a comprehensive account would only succeed in providing a wholly subjective point of view as to my condition, whereas adapting a more macrocosmic approach would not only serve to give the work as a whole more brevity, but also offer you a more objective foundation from which to view my deeds.


I hope you will forgive me, friend, for my overzealous beginning, and trust that this labor of reading will not be a waste of your time and energy. The police force of our glorious town and the media alike have embarked on a campaign to wholly sully my name and reputation, calling me a monster and a sexual sadist, insinuating that I might be deranged, in-bred or poorly educated, and I would like to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. I only hope that this diary can serve as a testament to such, for these are the true and honest words of the one they call the Axeman.


As far as I can tell, only one man’s hypothesis has come close to the truth: that of Detective John Dantonio, who was reported as saying that the Axeman could be a law-abiding citizen who is overcome by an overwhelming desire to kill. This I cannot deny. I abhor crime with a passion, and yet I was also born into violence. Whether it was simply in me from the moment I was conceived, or infused within me as a result of my upbringing or my environment, I cannot say, for I am not a psychologist. In reality, I am a writer, and I am a hero who vanquishes evil.


Would that my peers could understand the whole of my identity. Alas, it seems eternally beyond them, no matter how I try and guide them toward the truth. I am of a large, burly build, and so they naturally see me as a brute. I let my hair grow freely, naturally, without adapting to the modern standards of fashion, so they see me as an eccentric. To them, I say: Was Mozart not seen as an eccentric, yet simultaneously revered for his artistic genius? Why then, do the people of this society seek to put me down? I offer to read them some of my poetry, and they laugh at me as if I were a pitiful child. They say my vice of bloodlust makes me a monster, and I ask them to find me a man without a single vice. Yes, the violence lurks within me like a vicious, chained beast, I will admit it. When someone dares to defy me or insult me, it takes every fiber of my being to resist the urge to pulverize their puny skulls. In most cases, I settle for simply punching them in the face.


While other, more socially accepted men constantly lose themselves in gambling, liquor, and lies, I can easily resist such temptations. It is the saccharine sweetness of violence alone that makes me lose control, yet they expect me to believe that I am somehow worse than them, somehow less deserving of happiness and respect from my fellow men? Tell me, friend, if you have any clue as to the answer. Is the world jealous of my talents, or simply too ignorant to fathom them?


I am a lover of all the arts: painting, literature, poetry, sculpting, and most of all, music. Nothing can sway my heart more save my own urges than the capricious freedom of jazz. Boisterous, frantic and beautiful all the same time, jazz fills me with an energy I have never known anywhere else. I am especially fond of Tiger Rag, performed by the genius Original Dixeland Jazz Band. Indeed, jazz is my muse, and I would be remiss to ever try and create without partaking of its magic inspiration. As proof, I can hear the band rehearsing downstairs while I write these very words within my private chambers above Olivier’s, my favorite establishment in the French Quarter. It’s run by a friend of Doc’s, you see, and he made a special arrangement with the owner to allow me to live there as thanks for the contributions I’ve made to the community.


Doc is one of the few men alive who truly understands the talents I’ve been given and how best to use them. I don’t know where I would be without him, and I’m eternally grateful for his friendship. Thanks to Doc, I can listen to fresh Dixeland jazz every day and night. And not only that, but I now have the chance to give back to the beautiful community of New Orleans by wiping its streets clean of the scum that lurk beneath its cheery exterior.


Well, it appears I’ve gone right into the thick of it. And here I was going to take a moment to explain to you the ins and outs of my room, as well as the history of the club and how it came to be a key source of inspiration for the jazz craze that has swept the streets of New Orleans in the past few years. Yes, I suppose that can all wait for later. Since you’ve been such a good reader this far, friend, you’ve certainly earned the right to hear the details of my life’s greatest work. While I wish I could say it was a lucrative writing career, alas, that still has yet to take off.


Please, though, I beg that you don’t misunderstand me. I can think of no greater paradise than being allowed to write all day and night, creating fanciful tales for loyal readers eager to go on heroic adventures with the characters who live inside me. Oh, how I yearn for peaceful days in solitude, with no need to navigate vapid conversations with the dull mundanes who populate our world. In truth, I bear them no ill will, but I’d much sooner not have to speak with them and entertain their tiring attempts at fishing for praise and adoration – but I’ve gotten off topic again, haven’t I?


Now then, where were we? Ah yes. My life’s greatest work. It all started upon my first visit to Olivier’s at the end of 1917’s Autumn. Right after the devils that control our city closed down Storyville, the bastards, sending every talented jazz musician fleeing in search of a new creative haven. It had been my sanctuary as well, a place for me to sit and watch like a fly on the wall as the magic of jazz was concocted by its forefathers. Some looked down on the district as a ‘den for the scourges of prostitution and drunkenness,’ but what great city is without a single vice? Instead of trying to properly regulate it, the government just tried to sweep everything under the rug, ‘for the sake of the soldiers’ who went off to fight in the great war. And while I feel great sympathy for those poor young men, artists need the freedom to work in safety, without fear of censure or government interference. Alas, they will find none of that here for the time being, and so I bid farewell to my creative muses. Last I heard, they were headed for Chicago.


And so I wandered like a lost lamb, through the cold, dirty streets of the city I still can’t bring myself to hate. New Orleans is filled with hypocrisies, yes, but perhaps that just makes it all the more human. Rage at the injustices burned within me, and I was at my worst. A rude word was enough to set me off. I beat a man with his own shoe after he dared to stub my toe in a hand-out line. I was without purpose, without any form of solace in that callous silence, until one night, I heard it – soft jazz, sent like a hand to grip my soul. Lured in by the music just like an alley cat to the scent of fresh milk, I was. A frigid chill danced through the street that night, yet my spirit was warm, and the darkness was fast asleep within me. I ordered a soda pop and simply enjoyed the melodious chaos within the spacious dance hall.


The music was orchestrated by a group of eight men, all talented in their specific instruments of choice, with occasional singing provided by a young woman named Sarah – a feast not only for the soul, but the eyes as well. With her phenomenal talent, I would daresay she has the potential to become the next Bessie Smith down here in the South.


I would be remiss to not properly introduce you to Sarah, dear friend. Aside from her astounding musical talent, she has also become a constant in my life, and someone I’m proud to call a friend. With long curly hair and a big, grinning mouth, she’s easily the star of the bar. She lives close by and sings with the band just about every day. At only 19 years old, she’s nothing short of a prodigy, and it had indeed been her voice that had helped lead me into Olivier’s that fateful night. Now, I must make an embarrassing confession to you. Call it magic, call it purity, call it what you will – Sarah has it, and every time I see her smile, something magical began to burn deep inside me. From the moment I met her and had the fortune to speak with her, I vowed to protect her and her honor at any cost.


Sarah lives alone. From what I know, she fled an abusive household, making it all the more miraculous that she can live out her life with such hope and tranquility despite the horrors she must have faced as a little girl. Like the pen is the outlet for my own soul, she has chosen song, and her voice is like none other I have ever heard. Now, I hope you aren’t getting any strange ideas, friend. No, I have never touched a single one of her hairs – I wouldn’t dare. And God help the person who dares to try and steal anything from her, whether it be a possession or her dignity. Yes, while I serve as the bodyguard of Olivier’s, it is perhaps Sarah who I wish to shroud most of all. What would have become of me, had she not called out to me that night?


I will stop myself here, for if I did not, I fear I could go on for pages and pages concerning my admiration for Sarah. In any case, I was mesmerized by Sarah and Olivier’s jazz orchestra that fateful night, and thoroughly enjoyed myself for the first time in a long while. Until, that is, a particularly inebriated patron stood up and began to shout. Obscenities and spittle flew from his bearded lips as he lambasted not only the musicians but jazz itself, using all sorts of slurs and repugnant words that I dare not repeat here. Like many of the other traditionalists, old-timey Christians, and what have you, he saw jazz as a corruption, a force of decadence that had to be stopped. Can you imagine it? He didn’t just hate certain people – he hated music itself!


As he continued screaming, the band continued playing. But despite their valiant attempts to fend off his insults, the bearded man in the straw hat and overalls refused to stand down. Angrily, he picked up his glass and flung it straight at the stage – or would have, if my heroic instincts had not roused me to action. With agility not unlike a cheetah bounding through the grass, I leapt up from my chair, grabbed the man’s flimsy arm, and twisted it behind his back. Angrily, he spat on me, and although I can’t remember exactly what he told me in that furious moment, I do believe they included demands for his release and a string of oddly specific references toward my mother’s sexual preferences. It didn’t matter, of course, because I was already in the process of making the villain pay for his transgressions.


As the man tried to wrestle his arm free from the painful position I had pinned it in, I easily reached around and grabbed his other shoulder. He only had a few seconds to kick at my shins before I lifted him straight off the ground, spun him like a medicine ball, and launched him back through the double doors that served as the establishment’s entrance. Unfortunately, my indignance had prohibited me from adequately controlling my aim, and Part of the man’s skull slammed into a brass door knob as he continued his flight, cracking the knob clean off.


After that, friend, unfortunately, I cannot recall the details as clearly as I would like. But I do remember that it felt exquisite, and once I had completed passing my swift judgment, what remained of the man’s head looked like a messy plate of spaghetti. Upon collecting my wits, I tossed the man’s body into the river, then returned to Olivier’s. To my surprise, the music had not resumed, and the patrons were staring at me as if I was some kind of monster. I apologized for the interruption, as well as for dirtying up the entrance, but assured them that I would be happy to clean up the mess would they be so kind as to provide me with some water and a mop. For reasons that still elude me to this day, they declined.


They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but I’ve never once caused any damage with a writing implement. When I see or hear injustice, the heroic urge to destroy evil compels me so powerfully that I have no choice to obey. It’s been that way ever since I was a child, and nothing has ever been able to ‘cure’ me. Despite what others may think, however, I am perfectly content with myself, and proud of the man I’ve become.


Unfortunately, that evening, the bartender of Olivier’s did not feel the same way. Gripped by fear, he called the police, who might have attempted to apprehend me for nothing less than a pure act of heroism were it not for a divine spark of serendipity. You see, friend, one of Olivier’s co-owners happened to be there that day: a tall man with a round face like a moon and well-groomed hair. He had a regular name, but everyone called him Doc. He wore a blue and grey striped double-breasted suit and cut a rather dashing figure, I should say. We shared a chuckle over the fact that we not only both have Italian heritage, but our last names even sound similar. Kindred spirits. He not only thanked me for my help but lauded me in my efforts and suggested that I leave the police to him. Sure enough, he explained that I was merely doing my best to protect the establishment from a violent, drunken lunatic, and the police were content with the explanation.


Doc invited me to sit with him up front that evening and have a drink. As liquor had never agreed with me, I graciously ordered another soda pop and spoke with Doc about a whole plethora of topics. Jazz, the great war, the trajectory of American society, and much more. Not only was he a learned man, he also had a quick wit, and we immediately hit it off. Never had I met such a gregarious man, and as if that wasn’t good enough, he also respected my talents. After only a single conversation, he invited me to work as a security guard for Olivier’s, and I happily accepted the offer.


Oh dear, look at the time. Unfortunately, friend, although I was determined to take you through the complete ins and outs of my career in a single passage, I have regrettably indulged myself in too much detail and tired myself out in the process. I will retire to slumber now, for a lack of sleep can play tricks on a man’s mind, and I must keep myself ever vigilant as I wait for the next evil to rear its head. Rest assured, in due time, I shall return to you and continue the tale from where I last left off. Good night, friend, and may sweet dreams await you.


September 27, 1918


Dear friend, I must apologize for my long absence. I have kept you waiting for over a month through a monumental act of lethargy sloth. In truth, the darkness has burned within me stronger than usual over the past few weeks, which has made it hard to concentrate and focus my mental faculties. Summer is on its way out, giving way to the kaleidoscope of autumn colors that fills our streets and marshes this time every year. As the atmosphere has become quite more palatable for my tastes, I currently sit in front of my desk with the window open, watching the passers-by on the streets as I ponder my next sentence.


I have always been happy in my small room here in Olivier’s – it has barely enough room for a man my size, as most of the space is taken up by my bed and writing desk, but it has a fine closet. I am but a simple man, and all I truly lack at this moment is some honest work. Sadly, Doc has given me no new tasks – perhaps he is still upset about my lack of accuracy during the last job in August. Speaking of which, I still have yet to keep my promise about guiding you through my career, haven’t I? In that case, without further ado, allow me to continue my tale from where I last left off.


I am a violent man. To me, pulverizing that which I hate is an entirely pleasurable experience, and it has been that way ever since I was a small child. I am not a man without morals, however, so I have sought desperately for a way to utilize my talents in a manner that is beneficial to society. Sadly, it takes everything in my power to control myself in acting out during normal everyday situations. In some situations, my greatest efforts prove entirely futile, as you’ve seen in my previous entry. Doc understood this, but unlike most other people, he was not afraid.


Doc was up front to me in the beginning about being involved in the mafia, and I respected him for this. He told me about his smuggling work, and how the government had partly forced his hand due to their unreasonable tariffs and regulations against small business owners. Indeed, big business was all they cared about, and they were happy to see the little ones starve just as long as the rich were able to further fill their coffers. He didn’t want to steal from the poor – on the contrary, he wanted to help the small ones do business. And so, in addition to my security services for Olivier’s, I soon began to help Doc out with business transactions all over our beautiful city.


Doc is an incredibly moral man as well, and does not deal in drugs, gambling, or prostitution. He also never gets in the way of our brave police force, which is perhaps why we were able to become such good friends. Doc smuggles in heavily taxable grocery goods and seeks to sell them at fair prices while also making a fair profit, which is in his right as an American citizen. Of course, this means he has to operate outside of the law, which sometimes forces him to deal with deceitful, untrustworthy types who occasionally tried to stiff him. Or at least, they used to, until I started accompanying him to every deal. We are often joined by his closest business partner, another Italian grocer named Steve. Thanks to our hard work, Steve’s grocery store has become a constant, reliable source of food for his neighborhood, fortifying the livelihood of not only his own family, but that of his friends and neighbors as well. They look as different as can be, yet they’re thick as thieves: the tall, well-shaven Doc, and the short, stocky Steve with his bushy mustache.


I was honestly shocked by the nerve of some of Doc and Steve’s clients. Some would undercut, while others would insist on receiving full payment up front. Still others tried to jump us as we walked through the alley out from our secret meeting places. Of course, any attempt at skullduggery was met with the fists of righteousness – my fists, that is, and I spared no quarter. I pummeled every man who dared to defy us until my knuckles were bloody and aching, but I never tired. It was not long before Doc asked me if I would prefer to do my work with a weapon. I asked him for an axe, since severing limbs from a human body was an extremely hard task to perform with fists alone.


And so our careers continued. Doc gave me not only a room to live in, where I could listen to jazz every day, but he also paid me an additional bonus whenever work went well. He asked him if I had any other desires, whether it be physical possessions or women, and I politely declined. As you know, I am a minimalist, and I have long since lost interest in soulless lust.


There was, however, a rather lengthy period of time when business seemed to be going badly for Doc. Shipments had slowed, he had begun to lose buyers, and it’d been over a month since I had needed to accompany him to a transaction. By this time, my reputation at Olivier’s had also grown so much renown that no one dared to disrupt the peace anymore. Left without any sort of outlet for over a month, I had felt my own darkness rising, and my irritations and temper had grown more and more sensitive. Slowly feeling like I had fallen to the end of my rope, I approached Doc and asked him if there was any task – anything at all that I could do for him which might also help me momentarily relieve my appetite for violence.


Sure enough, he brought me something that would end up greatly changing my career. Doc made sure to always keep his finger on the pulse of the underworld, and his intel network brought him all sorts of news about unsavory goings-on. Among them, Doc had heard about a couple involved in child trafficking – that is, selling children as commodities to rich individuals who wished to use them as sexual playthings.


Simply hearing that made my hair stand on end, and with wide eyes, I asked Doc if he had any information as to the identities of the couple. Sure enough, he had found out who they were, and asked me if I’d like to assist him in helping to clean some filth from the streets of New Orleans. I responded without a second of hesitation.


And so, my great work began. Doc drove me to the neighborhood where the couple lived and invited me to survey their home and make preparations. I watched them like any predator would watch its prey – patiently and carefully, ever planning my assault. According to Doc, they still had children stored somewhere, and to make matters worse, they masqueraded as grocers! When that truth hit me, I immediately understood the source of the animosity I saw burning in Doc’s eyes. Not only were they devils, but they were devils who trespassed on his very livelihood. If I killed them soon, we might be able to save some of the children.


And so I descended upon them from the shadows. Like an angel of death, they could not perceive my coming, and I shifted into their house like a specter. I found a freshly-sharpened razor blade in their bathroom and an axe in a closet and crept into their bedroom, where they were both soundly asleep. Just seeing them sleeping there in peace, thinking about all the innocent lives they’d ruined made my blood boil with rage, and I leapt on them in a fury, goring their necks like a wild animal. All the rage I had worked to condense in my heart exploded outwards, and I felt the blade sever flesh, muscle, and bone. I grinned, gritting my teeth in glee as I felt the foul blood and viscera spill out over my fingers. The magical sensation of severing muscle and snapping bone is something I shall not soon forget.


After running back to the designated waiting point, Doc picked me up, and I relayed to him that the deed had been accomplished. We rejoiced, and the streets of New Orleans became a little bit safer. Days later, Doc told me that twelve children had been recovered, and my heart flew on elated wings.


Life continued as usual, and through a benevolent coincidence, Doc’s business seemed to be going better. Spring came and went, and another sweltering southern summer began to set in. As I was sweating in my room pouring over another manuscript, Doc shocked me with some news. While the child trafficking had momentarily been put to a stop, this had done nothing to quell the appetites of the buyers who had already begun to groom another couple to do their evil bidding. Angrily, I demanded that Doc tell me the name of the new duo who had sold their souls over to evil, and I set off immediately to begin my next mission.


In June, after painstaking research and preparation, I entered the home of the next couple and sought to remove them from the earth. They slept soundly as I crept like a ghost into their bedroom, hands wet with sweat as I gripped the axe I had found on the premises. As I sought to hack them to bits, I was interrupted. Lights flashed on the street outside, as if someone was stopping at the house, so I hurriedly hacked at them as best I could before vacating the premises.


I felt horrible. I had failed to keep my promise, and wasn’t even sure as to whether I had properly killed them or not. Despite my shortcomings, Doc was nice enough to say ‘all’s well that ends well,’ and we resumed our business as normal. Of course, I swore never to repeat my mistake a second time… Yet I still did. As outlined in my first entry in this diary, I had been forced to dash out into the night once again without confirming my kill. Luckily, the vile man had died two days later due to the extremity of the blows I had inflicted upon him, yet I still could not help but feel as if I had failed. Doc was noticeably worried as well – not just due to my underperformance, but to how my acts had gained notoriety throughout the city.


Suddenly, everyone was talking about an ‘Axeman’. A murderer without motive who stalked the streets, ever thirsty for a new victim. They even tried to tie my crimes into the attempted murder of a pregnant woman that had occurred five days prior. A pregnant woman! Never in all my dreams would I ever attempt to murder an unborn child. The lies and speculations were preposterous, and it only got worse. I sought to set the story straight, perhaps through sending a letter to the paper in order to tell them of my heroic deeds, but Doc was strongly against it. According to him, the local law enforcement had even contacted the Bureau of Investigation for assistance and counsel.


We’ve decided to lay low for a bit. After all, Doc’s business has been going well, and according to him, the child trafficking business in New Orleans has been completely eradicated. They’re too afraid of the Axeman now. And while my original intention was never to become a symbol of terror and fear, if that’s what helps to keep our children safe, then I am more than happy to masquerade as the most heinous demon America has ever seen.


October 18, 1918


Good afternoon, dear friend. I trust that you have been in good health. The crisp air of autumn fills our streets, and hurricane season continues. Rainy days and gloomy skies abound, but there is much beauty to be found in the fall colors should one make a trek out of the city proper. Personally, I prefer to gaze at it in the distance from my bedroom window, while the soft murmurs of jazz trickle up from below. Doc’s business goes well, and I spend my days in peace.


Throughout my tenure as the bodyguard of Olivier’s, I have come in contact with a great variety of patrons. To be honest, I take great displeasure in communicating with 99% of the human population. Throughout my life I have learned that the majority of humanity is composed of liars, cowards, and otherwise dishonorable people. Give them kindness, and they will abuse it, for most people think of only taking what they want, with little regard to the greater good of the community, let alone the person beside them.


I too have suffered my fair share of abuse. In my youth I was more of a pure soul, trusting and hopeful about the human race. This soon changed, however, when I realized that it would be key to my survival into adulthood. And so, I hardened my heart like many people do, vowing to never let myself be abused or fooled ever again. I am fortunate to have come across Olivier’s for many reasons, for even while I find the majority of its patrons dull, vapid, and rude, there are the occasional diamonds. While they come and go at different times, for they each have their own lives and toils they must attend to, today I was delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with four of my favorites all at the same time.


It all started when Doc and Steve stopped by after unloading a new shipment of fruit. We were quickly joined by Sarah and spoke about the recent goings-on in the city, such as the attempts to revive business in Storyville, as well as the great influenza pandemic. For every new notch in the belts of our small little world within Olivier’s, there was some new horrible event in the wider world to keep the skies dark and murky.


On that day we were also joined by Mike, a brawny, fiery-haired engineer who has worked on many of the great steamboats that frequent our rivers, and stops by Olivier’s every now and then to take in the mirth. Not only does he have excellent manners, he is also a great conversationalist who not only understands but sympathizes with my appreciation for Sarah’s beauty. Many a night we have spent watching her sing and discussing the rarity of her splendor.


Partly due to my own exhaustion at the extended social interaction, I can’t begin to recall how many laughs we shared this evening. Steve and Mike kept urging Doc to run for mayor, mostly in jest, but he was a good sport, indulging in their fantasies of saving New Orleans from the corrupt fossils who can’t comprehend the impact that jazz will surely have on the future. Doc smirked and said that if he did it, he’d certainly need to think of a greater slogan than ‘for the sake of jazz,’ to which I made an indignant objection.


To think that I would ever find such heartwarming compatriots. I, who is more accustomed to crawling in the dirt and drawing blood than making merry and playing old maid. I must remember to give more daily thanks for all that I have been blessed with, and work harder to further beautify our community. I shall sleep well tonight, and I hope you do too, friend.


November 12, 1918


At last, the great war has come to a close. I can hardly believe my ears. This will surely bring great changes to our city, not to mention all the young men who will be coming home. Doc has already begun to talk about how it will most likely affect his business. In my youth I also thought of becoming a soldier in order to travel the world as a hero of justice but they would not take me. In the end, it was for the best. I do not need a commander in order to be a hero. I only pray that Doc can find me a new mission soon. It’s been too long, and I can feel the twitching in my soul. All headlines pertaining to the Axeman and my work are now a distant memory, and I wonder if, in the end, I have left any true impression on society. But if evil is ever to rear its head once more in my town…I will be there, waiting.


November 25, 1918


Good evening, friend. I write to you in the dead of night, for this evening was filled with a lengthy, momentous occasion – in order to commemorate my one-year anniversary at Olivier’s, my friends put together a surprise party for me. I was stunned and taken aback at first, for I have never received such an honor before. Doc even joked, slapping me on the back and saying it’s in lieu of a proper birthday party, since I have no recollection of when I was born, and frankly, do not particularly care. Indeed, my anniversary at Olivier’s is far more important in my own mind, and I was eternally grateful to be able to receive such a gift. You must forgive me, though, for I am far too exhausted to recount the events in detail at the moment. Just know that it was a great time for all. Sarah even sang a special song dedicated just to me.


I was so overjoyed, in fact, that I did something rather unusual. Seized by courage and the desire to show my gratitude, I decided to recite a poem I had written, just for her. While I have mentioned my writing to them in the past, never have I had the gall to thrust it upon them like this. Truth be told, I have often longed to find readers, and I have waited painstakingly for one of my friends to offer their eyes up for reviewing my work. But no one ever does. I suppose it’s only natural, since none of them are readers themselves. But sometimes I also wonder, does one need to be a connoisseur of music to appreciate jazz? I am sure you agree that the answer is no, friend, and thus even one who is not an avid reader should be able to appreciate the genius and art that is present within my own writing.


I was not prepared for the reaction. They were all wide-eyed and silent at first, and I began to worry that my art had not been well-received. Once they glanced at each other and slowly began to clap, however, I realize that they were merely stunned. Likewise, I had stared at them all in confusion, wondering what the matter was. But once I saw Sarah clap and thank me for sharing what I had written, I understood. I’d surely outdone all of their expectations.


The applause soon grew into something that seemed to be demanding some sort of encore. And so, I pulled out my second writing journal, in which I had the first chapter of my latest novel. I raised a hand to quiet the crowd and announced the title: ‘Sleuth Master and the Chamber of Doom’. Indeed, it was the latest episode in my Sleuth Master series, and I worried that the deeper nuances within the well-established canon might elude them, but I felt that delivering my newest and greatest work was surely a higher priority.


But as soon as I began to read the first sentence, Doc jumped up from his chair, pat me on the shoulder, and told me that he could see the exhaustion dripping down my face. Doc is such a caring, perceptive person. He realized that I was exhausted before I could even realize it myself! He was right, of course. The surprise alone had knocked my socks off, and all the revelry that had ensued had certainly done a number on me. With some reluctance, I nodded and gratefully took the opportunity to excuse myself for the night. Oh, what would I ever do without my friends?


December 19, 1918


It’s been too long

I need some sort of release

I’m going to talk to Doc next chance I get

and beg him for solace

I saw a grinning man today whose face seemed so perfectly punchable

When the desire to hurt grips me

it never lets go

I can fight and hold back all I like

but that only makes it stronger and stronger

until it is all I can think about

I need to find someone evil soon

or I don’t know what I’ll do


December 20, 1918


I ran into Doc today, and asked him if he would kindly provide me with some solace. To my surprise, he gave me not a job, but a piece of information that was shocking for entirely different reasons. Apparently, Sarah wanted to ask me to accompany her to a movie, but had been too bashful to breach the subject. I couldn’t believe my ears. After all, I am twice her age. It was perplexing, but Doc insisted that she respected me, perhaps more like something of a father figure, and encouraged me to take her out. He even gave me some money so that I would be able to buy both of us a decent lunch in addition to the movie fare. Nervously, I accepted the task, and combed my hair and put on my best clothes. Regrettably, I do not own any sort of suit, so I had to settle for a relatively spotless long-sleeved shirt and suspenders.


Sarah greeted me in a long green and white checked dress. The large white hat she wore went perfectly with her features and her outfit, and to this moment, I still can’t believe she actually wanted to go anywhere with me. After all, what could I possibly have to provide her? I am a writer, a man of the mind. I don’t know how to show someone a good time, let alone a beautiful young woman. Despite all this, I did my utmost to serve as a dutiful chaperone, and led her straight to the movie theater without delay. As we walked down the street together, I walked vigilantly beside her, scanning the streets for any sign of danger. I must confess, I was hoping some manner of urchin would come creeping out from an alley and set his sights upon her, if only I could have some release, not to mention some visceral way to display my valiant devotion.


I do not remember a moment of the contents of the film. I have no interest in moving pictures, for I feel they are highly inferior to any properly-written novel. Yes, watching figures in motion is certainly a quaint novelty, but the necessity for a limitation on how many words can be displayed at once prohibits each piece from attaining any sort of thematical depth. Regardless, Sarah seemed to enjoy the experience. She said she thought the romance was especially sweet, and in my infernal idiocy, I asked her if she has ever been in love. To my surprise, she laughed and told me she’s been in a very steamy relationship for the past few years. This shocked me, and she no doubt saw my eyes grow wide as saucers, for in the next moment, she said with a smirk: “They call him Mr. Jazz.”


We shared a laugh. “I’m sure he treats you very well,” I said, nodding in profound approval. I do hope Sarah finds someone to love her. She deserves to be loved. She deserves all the happiness in the world. I only fear that her beauty will lure one, if not many of the salacious monsters who inhabit our world.


After the movie theater, I made sure to walk Sarah home. When I got there, she asked me if I would like to come inside. Horror creeping up my arm, I quickly told her to be careful, for if she was ever so forward with a more mundane man, he may misconstrue it to think that she was interested in more than simply a cup of tea. This seemed to surprise her. I saw her eyes change their shade, and worried that perhaps my sudden change in tone had scared her. I quickly apologized, thanked her for the wonderful time, and bid her goodnight.


I worry for Sarah. She lives alone. She is a very trusting, caring person, so full of light. I must speak to Doc about this the next chance I get. She must be protected at all costs.


December 21, 1918


My hands are still shaking

still reddened

My rage has subsided for now

but it has not left me

Give me strength, friend

for pain fills my veins

I long to sink into the darkness

deep, deep, below the dirt

and let the earth swallow me whole

I hate the world I live in

When will I find peace?


January 3, 1919


Dear friend, I apologize for leaving you hanging for so long. After my episode at the end of December, I spent several days recuperating, then became quite busy with end-of-the-year parties at Olivier’s. The New Year has come and gone, and we have been ushered into a new age of brilliance, we can only hope. Jazz continues to spread across the countryside, from what I have heard, and surely only doom awaits its naysayers.


You may recall me accompanying Sarah to a movie in the latter half of December. Out of an entirely altruistic concern for her safety and welfare, I approached Doc when he was having a drink with Mike and Steve on the following day. I told him about our time together and what had transpired after I escorted her home.


“You never cease to amaze me,” Doc said, with a laugh. Steve and Mike shared an equally humorous response despite the urgency of my concern, and Mike in particular threw his head back in the midst of a hearty belly laugh. I asked him what was so funny, and Steve began to say something. “She-” was all he got out before Doc put a hand around his shoulder, although it looked more like he was full-on gripping the man’s neck. That silenced Steve.


Confused, I asked Doc if he did not share a similar concern for the girl’s safety. “She’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” was all he said, and tried to usher me out. This did not satisfy me, however, and I pressed him for more information. Doc was a strong man, but he was not strong enough to push me out from the back room on that day, or probably on any other day, for that matter. I stood my ground and asked the both of them if they were hiding something from me. They promised that they were not. I added that I expected some sort of explanation for the laughter, since I still did not see anything funny about being concerned for Sarah’s welfare.


Doc and Steve gave each other a glance. Doc let out a sigh and asked me if I would forgive him for his strange reaction. Of course I would forgive him. I loved Doc like my own brother. But my restlessness was in strong form that day, and even though I could have easily stood down, I went a step further. I told them that I had greatly enjoyed reciting my poetry to the group during my birthday party, and would like them to schedule a special date at which I could recite some more. Graciously, Doc nodded with a smile and said he would think of a good date for it, which put me at ease for the moment.


Sadly, I could not fall asleep that night, so I decided to go for a night walk. There was nothing else to do, and I certainly did not want to make any noise and disturb the other tenants in the middle of the night. I wandered the streets of New Orleans and watched its people. Talking. Laughing. Going about their business. Nothing wrong… Until I heard laughter coming from a solitary man.


He sat against the wall of a gambling house, drinking a bottle of who knows what. A man in his 40s, thoroughly drunk, watching me as I passed by…and he was laughing. No one spoke to him. He was entirely alone, looking at me. Laughing at me.


Can one man truly be better than another? Are we not all born with our own drawbacks, limitations, and fatal flaws? Yet day in and day out, we mock one another and put up with our own ridicule.


As I pummeled the man’s face into a bloody pulp, I thought of Doc and Steve. I felt my frustration at not understanding what had truly gone on when they glanced at each other. Why did they laugh? Were they really laughing at me? Was I right to construe that strange laughter as a slight against me? After all we’ve been through? As I swung the man’s body into the building’s wall and heard the loud snap of human bone, I thought of Sarah. She is far too beautiful for this world and all its ugliness.


The next thing I knew, I was elbow deep in the gore, and dear friend, it is to my dismay that I must confess it that it was quite a healing, rejuvenating experience. With each squelch, my frustration, irritation, and anger slowly washed away, until it was but a distant memory. Brutality concluded, I smeared the human remains into the gutter and made my way home. Finally, at long last, I could get a good night’s sleep again.


February 18, 1919


Good afternoon, dear friend. I apologize for my long absence – I have not had much of an appetite for writing as of late. To be completely honest, I have fallen into a bit of a slump, both in my daily and my creative work, for the weather has been cold and miserable. It does look like things are finally starting to warm back up a bit, however, and I can feel my passion rekindle once more.


Isn’t it funny how sometimes in life, good things just have a way of happening all at once? Finally, Doc has brought me a new task. They’re at it again, those devils. The war ended, and peace had returned to our town for a good half a year, but evil is at it again. A new couple has entered the trafficking business – immigrants, located not in the city proper, but a small suburb just outside it. Perhaps they thought it would be a good hiding place. They will not be able to hide from my wrath. I feel like it’s been so long… I will not falter this time. I will make Doc proud. I will show Doc, Steve, Mike, and Sarah what I am truly capable of. This city will never laugh at me ever again.


March 11, 1919


Although it pains me to write this, I have failed.


Tragedy has struck, my dear friend, and I regret to inform you that it was by my hand. Last night, I waded through the darkness to vanquish a new evil. Nearly half a year has it been since my last mission, where my inability to control my violence caused those innocent women to awaken and interrupt my work. Determined not to make the same mistake again, I carefully removed another panel on the house’s back door and crept inside as soft as any incorporeal specter. I attuned my ears to the soft, nearly inaudible sounds of human breathing and precariously traversed the stairway that led to the couple’s bedroom.


There they slept, darkened mounds under blankets, submerged in the even darker shroud of the blackness within their bed. Each step I took created not a single creak in the wooden floorboards. I could feel the bloodlust bubbling, as if my body itself already understood that the time was near. After half a year of restraint, occasional lapses of judgment, and days upon days of irritation and frustration, I would finally see release. The beast would have its blood.


When I reached the bedside, I saw them. Husband and wife, sleeping soundly side by side, ignorant to my presence. I readied the axe I had found in their backdoor shed, confident that my aim would be true, and plunged it down into the man’s head. I pulled my bloody axe up and quickly cleaved the woman as well before she made too much noise. They both writhed in their sheets, the evil spirits, pouring out crimson blood from both of the wounds I had created. The foul stench of gore permeated the air, and I pulled my axe back yet again like a knight would remove his blade from the gut of a dragon, eager to finish the gruesome deed.


Then, I saw something impossible. Rising up from within the sheets was somehow a third head. Panic gripped my already burning body, and my axe unconsciously changed trajectory. There was a third person present in the bed. The dark curve of a head rose up from the sheets, almost mockingly – a demonic farrago sent to stymie my efforts once more. Indignant rage seized my arm, and I swung my axe down. I would allow no entity to ruin my perfect comeback.


The moment my axe struck the back of the neck, I froze, for it had risen well out of the covers by then, and it felt far too small – much smaller than any neck I had ever perpetrated.


I staggered backwards as I realized the third presence in the bed had been a small child. It was now silent, lying still in a pool of blood that slowly formed in the center of the couple’s bed. My mind raced, and then I dashed out into the night.


When I told Doc what had transpired, he seemed noticeably alarmed. But he had seen a lot in his day. He remained calm, and even assured me that things would be alright so long as my face had not been seen. He asked me if I had properly attacked the couple, and I assured him that I had struck both cleanly in their scalps. This seemed to put him at further ease, and he congratulated me on a job well done.


A job well done? I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t even know they’d had a child. Whose child was it? What was it doing in their bed? Frantic questions moved to leap straight from my tongue, but I managed to rein them back in, fearful of robbing Doc of a good night’s sleep as well. No, this was my crime to bear alone. In my infernal idiocy, I took one of the very lives I had worked so hard to protect. How could I have been so foolish?


This was not the road the Axeman was meant to pave. Months after the initial commotion had died down, and the public had begun to forget of his presence, I had hoped this revival could prove as a reminder to all those who might have felt like it was safe to commit evil behind closed doors again. Now the Axeman would be branded a child murderer. It would only serve to validate the hypothesis of the masses that the Axeman was a bloodthirsty, indiscriminate, highly uneducated maniac. I have to do something. Even if I may never be able to fully wipe this guilt off my chest, I cannot simply stand idly by and watch everything come crumbling down. Yes… In my darkest hour, the time has finally come to put my pen to work. Give me strength, friend, for I surely would be lost without you.


March 13, 1919


Good afternoon, friend. As I last wrote to you, on March 12, I set about devising a letter to the newspapers in order to combat the uproar that would no doubt ensue following the colossal failure during my last mission. After a great deal of creative pains and crumpling of pages upon pages of manuscript, I finally found it – the perfect way to speak as the Axeman in a voice the public would accept, while also promoting jazz for the benefit of society. I soon realized that saving the reputation of a persona who, by all public standards, would be considered a vile killer, was out of the question. With this letter, however, I can at least push the narrative toward something positive. No matter how hated I may be, I know that I will never lose the heroic passion that burns through my veins. I will save this town.


Now, dear friend, allow me to present you the letter that I sent three days ago to the local newspapers, and I urge you to read it well. Its contents will be very important for the remainder of this entry.


Hell, March 13, 1919


Esteemed Mortal:


They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.


When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.


If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don’t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.


Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.


Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is: I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it out on that specific Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.


Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fantasy.


-The Axeman


What say you, friend? Did it strike fear in your heart, or perhaps cause your spine to tingle? I tried to emulate the fearsome persona as best I could, although I will admit that it does not come second nature to me. Despite that, I feel great pride in the masterful way in which I juxtaposed the monstrous persona of the Axeman with the altruistic goal of promoting beloved jazz throughout the city. Would you not agree it is the most beautiful goal a man could strive for?


After completing my final revision of the letter and preparing to send it, I thought it prudent to share the contents with Doc and the others first. After all, it was only thanks to their support that I had come this far, and as lovers of jazz themselves, I was positive that they would appreciate the sentiment. I will go and take it to them now. Oh, I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces! Surely it is my greatest work.


March 14, 1919


How do you see me, friend? What am I to you? I consider you an upright, respectful confidant. What do you consider me?


As I wrote you last, I took the letter to Doc and the others to let them read it before I sent it out. I thought they would be ecstatic. That they would congratulate me between their astounded reactions at my genius ideas. Imagine my surprise when I saw the bewildered expression on Doc’s face after he finished reading. His face seemed to undulate a bit, as if he’d just eaten something that hadn’t quite agreed with him. Then he looked at me and said in a wavering voice: “I’m sorry, but you can’t send this out.”


I was crestfallen and asked him why. Doc claimed that attracting unwanted attention to the Axeman would not be safe, and apologized for disappointing me. He went on to explain that BOI investigators had recently visited New Orleans to assist in the ongoing investigation. It all sounded like shallow pretense, and I could not accept it. I went to Steve and asked him to read it and tell me what he thought. As he scoured the paper, I thought I caught a moment where it seemed like he was about to burst into laughter, until he caught himself and shook his head a bit.


But it made no sense. They had clapped for me. Even though months had passed and no one had ever asked me to recite any more poetry or read any of my novels, I had simply believed they were busy, preoccupied with life. I certainly had not held it against them. Right up to that moment, I had trusted that they respected me and my talents. Was I a fool?


I looked to Steve, seeing if perhaps he would take my side, but he shook his head and lazily waved me away, as if he had better things to do. Doc did not come to my aid. He simply stood in silence, watching me from afar, as if I was a feral animal whose erratic movements could not be accurately pre-empted at the moment.


“But… But don’t you see?” I asked weakly. “With this, we can salvage the Axeman’s reputation and promote jazz at the same time. A friend of jazz is a friend of ours, isn’t that what we always say? What reason would you have to be against this?”


Sadly, my pleas fell on deaf ears. Finally, midst my colossal embarrassment, I said that I felt a bit ill and would retire to my quarters. It was something I often did when I became too overwhelmed from human interactions or exhausted, and they did not lift a finger to stop me.


Leaving the barroom and walking up the stairs to my quarters was a walk of shame, to be sure. I stewed in my room, mind racing. No, I could not calm down. Over and over again I thought back to the moment when Doc and Steve had laughed at my concern for Sarah. I thought of how Doc had stood up to keep me from reading further on my own god-forsaken birthday. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt my stomach twist into a knot. No, I could not sleep tonight. There was something else I needed to do.


For the first time ever, I merged with the darkness in my room. I turned out the lights, settled my nerves and opened the window that led out to the back area behind Olivier’s. With acrobatic finesse, I scaled the back wall and lowered myself into some bushes between a wooden fence and the cement foundation of the building. It was quiet outside, and only the soft sounds of jazz floated through the night air.


I cut open a panel from the rear service door that led into the pantry and slipped inside. The dim, musty storeroom was behind the corner of the bar we always sat in. I silently moved around the crates and tools that cluttered the space and positioned myself behind a large shelf near the northern wall. It was difficult to hear them talk at first, but I knew that once the musicians and the patrons had gone home, Doc would sit down with his closest friends as he always did to talk about business and share a piece of his mind. I had joined him many a time, when sleep eluded me. Never would they expect I was downstairs. The old rickety steps creaked far too much whenever I lumbered across them. No, as far as they knew, I was fast asleep in my big bed, wallowing in my failure.


I waited for what seemed like an eternity. In between songs, I heard people come and go, thanking and praising each other. I heard Doc, Steve, and Mike laughing with women and each other. I heard Sarah singing, in great form as always. Eventually, all the noise faded, and only the inner circle remained. At one point the bartender opened the door to put some things away, but it did not faze me. Concealed in the shadows, I knew I would never be seen.


I sat like a tiger crouched in tall grass as I listened to Doc, Steve and Mike converse. They spoke of women, politics, and business, but I knew in my heart of hearts that the topic would eventually wind around to me. After what had transpired today, it was inevitable.


“How about that letter?” Steve said at last, and I could tell by the tone of his voice that there was a smirk on his face. “Boy, was that some baloney. Even worse than his poems.”


Mike snorted. “Did you actually read the whole thing? ‘A demon from the hottest hell’ my ass. He can’t even finish most of the jobs we send him on.”


“Now, now,” Doc cut in, keeping his voice low. “He’s done more than the two of you combined. We owe a lot of our recent successes to him.”


As Mike and Steve’s daggers beset my heart, I felt a small relief wash over me. Doc believed in me, just as he always had. How could I have ever doubted him?


“Well, you’d better put a tighter leash on him,” Mike went on. “We’re damn lucky no one’s been able to recognize him, and now he seems to want some limelight for himself. Wants to be some kind of ambassador for jazz or something, who knows what goes on in that screwy head of his.”


“That’s why we had Sarah take him out.” Steve was next to speak. “Give him some heavy petting, help him let off his steam. But we all know how that went. What the hell’s his deal, Doc? Is he a eunuch or something?”


“Maybe he only gets off when he’s, you know… Sarah told me she didn’t even want to be alone with him, let alone do him,” Mike said. “Says he gives her the heebie jeebies, but you knuckleheads talked her into it.”


“The money talked her into it,” Doc murmured. “She’s a smart woman who knows what she wants, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Come now, Mike, don’t tell me she’s got you fooled too?”


There was a moment of a pause. I could feel my body shivering softly, the hackles on my neck rising high. Who were these demonic entities, and what had they done with my compatriots?


“She said she likes me the best,” Mike stammered. “That she’d marry me as long as I could get enough savings together… She wasn’t lying about that…was she?”


Steve chuckled. Was Doc chuckling with him too? I couldn’t tell anymore, for the volcanic rage had bubbled up too far, muddling my senses. I clenched my fists, unable to sit still anymore, whilst also unable to turn my ears away. They had gotten to her. The evil entities corrupted her as well. No one was safe, not even myself. I grit my teeth and seethed, but vowed to go on listening. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined the truth would be this horrific.


“Well, Doc?” Steve asked. “What are you going to do about him? He’s been acting goofy ever since the end of last year. You really think we should keep dealing with such a bellyache?”


“Now now, gents,” Doc said, with a calmingly slow tone of voice. “Just lend me handle him. So he gives us the occasional annoyance – so what? He may look a brute, but he’s no different from anyone else. Push the right buttons, and he’s as harmless as a fly. Just smile and nod, like you always do. He’ll never talk to anyone. We’re all he has.”


“As long as you keep pushing the right buttons, I s’pose,” Mike said with a sigh. “Better not let him ever find out who all those people really were. Can’t imagine he’d like that.”


“I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about,” Doc said, and I thought I heard Mike let out a yelp of pain. “Isn’t that right, Steve?”


“That’s right,” Steve answered coldly. “Say, how about them Red Sox, huh?”


To say that I could not believe my ears would be an understatement. At a certain point, I could no longer even tell who I was angriest at. Steve, Mike, Doc, or Sarah? They had all lied to me. Or was I angriest at myself? It mattered little. The beast roared inside me, but everything was different this time. I was not in public, nor was I on a special mission. I was entirely alone, one in the darkness, and control was the last thing on my mind.


I can still remember the feeling of the wood and insulation as I burst through the wall, sending splinters and asbestos spilling out over the men and their table. Swinging my arms like maces, I pushed my way out of the hole and stood before them. All three of the men let out yelps of surprise and flew out of their chairs. As I felt the remnants of the wall crumble off me, I stomped forward, demolishing the wooden chair and the table in my path. Kicking, flailing, and seething, I rained blows down upon all three men. I picked up Mike’s body and threw him into Steve, rampaging like a wild animal. In the chaos they screamed and floundered. It was inevitable – I had been reduced to a chaotic force of nature, and it was several moments before I realized that I was no longer hitting anything but tepid air.


Slowly, my vision returned, and I saw that all three men had scrambled to their feet a few steps away from me. Mike was shivering behind the piano, face white as a ghost, while Steve was cowering behind Doc.


I’d never seen my best friend look so red in the face. For perhaps the first time ever, Doc had lost his cool. Shakily, he ruffled his suit and held up a hand.


“Shouldn’t have done that, pal,” he said with a sigh. “I didn’t want things to end this way. I really liked you, you know?”


“Tell me who they were,” I growled.


But Doc ignored my demand and took a step back. “You remember all those nights ago, when I made you pick a weapon?” he asked, as he reached his hand into his breast pocket. “You should have asked for a gun.”


In the next moment, three things occurred: Doc removed a small pistol from his pocket, Steve and Mike took off, and I rushed forward. The pistol’s bullet hit me hard in the chest, but I continued forward, much to his surprise. He shot again, but no small crumb of lead could ever stop my fury. My first punch connected with his wrists, smacking the pistol out of his hands. My second punch landed deep in his gut, knocking him backwards onto the floor.


“Wait… Wait!” Doc wheezed. I was astonished by how craven and pathetic he suddenly looked as he sat there on his knees, waving his arm up at me. “You don’t want to do this to me… I’m the best friend you got in this town.”


I kicked Doc in the face, then used my knees and one hand to pin his body down while I clamped the other around his neck. His desperate breathing pulsated through my fingertips, and I slowly tightened my fingers.


“Tell me who they were,” I said. “And don’t you dare lie to me again.”


“They were in the way,” Doc croaked. “That’s all. Relax, alright? None of ’em were angels.”


“They weren’t child molesters?” I could feel my own voice wavering as I asked him the question.


Doc let out a sad snort. “Might as well have been.”


I squeezed Doc’s neck as if my hand was a vise, and I heard him make an unusual gargling noise. I had to see his eyes. I lightly let up on the pressure for a moment in order to shift his body around, and Doc immediately tried to escape. As he scrambled and reached for his gun, I stomped my boot down on his arm, then began to beat him in the head. I wasn’t just angry. I was appalled at every action, every word that came out of his mouth. Who was this man? Where was the warm benefactor I knew so well?


Doc howled in pain as I beat him. Once he stopped trying to escape, I gave pause and looked deep into his eyes. They were bloodshot and only partially open. His face looked old and ugly.


“Why?” I asked, as I fastened my hands around his neck once more. “Why me?”


Doc gurgled out a sad laugh. “What do you care, pal? If you’re gonna do me, just do me already. It’s all business. Nothing personal.”


“Answer me!” I roared. “It could have been Mike. It could have been Steve… But no, you chose me. You saw something in me, didn’t you? My potential… My talents… You told me I was special, Doc. Was that all a lie too?”


As Doc listened to me, his body grew still, and for a few moments, he just stared at me, with glazed-over vacant eyes. I might have thought he was dead if I hadn’t been able to feel his pulse through his neck.


“If I tell you, will you let me live?” he finally asked.


“Yes,” I replied.


“Yeah, I saw something in you, alright,” Doc said finally, and for a moment, he almost looked sad. “You’re soft.”




“On the outside, you’re strong, you’re tough,” Doc went on, “But on the inside… In here…” Doc nudged toward his own heart. “You don’t think about using people. You actually care about doing what’s right. About justice. And that’s what makes you soft.”


“You…don’t?” I asked, incredulous. “You don’t care?”


“Gotta make it look like you do on the surface, while in the end, you get the biggest piece of the pie. That’s just how this world really works. Funny, ain’t it?” Doc chuckled. “Everyone in this town thinks you’re the psychopath.”

Then, it hit me.


“You’re the murderers,” I muttered. “You, Mike, Steve, Sarah… You killed the kind souls that once inhabited those bodies and took them over. You’re the murderers,” I repeated, feeling my hand grow tighter around Doc’s neck. “You’re the murderers…”


“Wait…” Doc rasped, and he once again started to flounder within my grasp. “Wait, you said you’d–”


Yes. Even to the end, Doc thought I was a man of my word. To this day, his conviction still touches me.


Soft. They thought I was soft. A docile tool that continues to operate so long as the proper buttons are pushed. Well, I’ll show them. Just like I showed Doc. I’m sure he didn’t think I was soft when I shattered his bones and gouged out his eyes. When I went back on my word. When I let him feel the full brunt of my anger, my rage, my pain. When I looked down on his suffering and smiled. The more I destroyed him, the more cathartic it felt, and soon I realized that I was not just destroying a man, I was also destroying a vicious lie – a reality that could never be; a false, ignorant version of myself. A falsity that deserved to be rectified.


Now then, friend, back to my original question. How do you see me? Please let me know, because I would like to think you understand me better than most. Remember, your opinion is very important to me.


March 19, 1919


Today I am proud to say I have nothing but good news, friend, and my spirits are high. I am recovering well from my grievous wounds. Tonight is quite possibly the most joyous night that New Orleans has experienced, thanks to my letter, which I made sure to post the day following the incident and my last day of employment at Olivier’s. The city is aflame with jazz, pouring out from every edifice, all thanks to the Axeman. Despite my profound sorrow, I can still rest at ease, knowing that I am a good person. I have done good for the world, and will continue to protect it from evil.


The city revels in their safety tonight, drinking and dancing in peace, confident that the Axeman will not harm them ever again. And why would he? A friend of jazz is a friend of the Axeman. Soon, his bloody career will come to a close, for he does not seek to harm the innocent. He has only sought to vanquish evil. The Axeman is a hero, and there are more villains left to face. Steve, Mike, Sarah… Murderers who claimed beautiful, innocent souls.


The lies must be purged.


Following this entry, the Axeman’s writings became more scattered and unintelligible. After reviewing all the data, I believe that perhaps at this point, the rift between the “Jekyll” and “Hyde” portions of the Axeman’s psyche had simply grown too wide, and the violent side had taken complete control. His journal entries from this time period seem to suggest this, and contain pages upon pages of gleeful writing describing his murderous rampage.


After fleeing the city, he sought refuge in some marshlands next to the city, where he preyed on crawfish farmers and rural communities in order to survive. Despite his claims about the Axeman ending his career, it seemed that he killed far more frequently in 1919 than he had the previous year, although most of these killings happened outside of New Orleans. Over the summer, he prowled regularly in the city and located the domiciles of Steve Boca, Sarah Laumann, and Mike Pepitone, then attacked each of them throughout the fall. Steve and Sarah recovered from their wounds, but Mike did not. The identity and whereabouts of the man known as ‘Doc’ are unknown.


After my initial discovery of the newspaper article on the Axeman and his letter, it took us roughly half a year to track him down. Through searching and questioning local fishermen, we tracked down the derelict hut where a man fitting his description supposedly lived. Upon entering, we found the dwelling deserted and disheveled, as if it had been ransacked. Old food lay strewn about the floor, and leather journals had toppled down from a small wooden rack in the corner. The bed was little more than an old mattress with a few blankets on top of it, which had been tossed to the side. Dust and mold permeated the space, and we figured we had been too late.


The Axeman was nowhere to be found, which dampened our resolve. But all was not lost – for in the end, it was a police whistle that alerted us to the man’s true location.



New Year’s Eve, 1919


A cold chill permeates the air tonight. I no longer know what day it is, or how long it has been since I exterminated my last monster. Time has escaped me, as has many other earthly notions, and I spend my days lurking in the mire. Shambling, a hulking mass of rags and filth, I keep my eyes peeled on the dim horizon, ever watchful for new prey. Sleep is a luxury I can rarely afford. The urge keeps my blood ever boiling.


But I am hungry, and I am weary. I trudge back through the quagmire toward my hovel, eager for sustenance, when I see them. Men in dark hats and raincoats surround my dwelling, shifting back and forth like apparitions.


After all this time, they found me. I freeze, not in surprise, but rather tired resignation, nails digging into the flesh of my hands. I once held the police force in great regard. I thought of them as modern heroes who spent their days ridding the streets of evil. Paragons of justice. But they laughed at me too, didn’t they? I poured all my sweat and tears into that letter, only to watch as they made a mockery of me for all the world to see. I turned the city into a paradise that night. Every last house was illuminated and filled with melodious jazzy chaos. Peaceful and warm. Why was it so hard for them to understand?


I even tried to explain everything to one of them, long after the fact. I told them about Doc and the other monsters who has masqueraded as my allies, how I had been beguiled into murdering innocents. He refused to cooperate, so I had to put him down for my own safety.


And now here they were, poorly-dressed hunters wearing their hats and raincoats, slick with black rain. I crouch deep into the quagmire, cradling a rotting stump as I peek over its curvature. The darkness shrouds me in my domain.


Or so I thought, until a golden flash cuts through the abyss, momentarily blinding me. Flashlights swerve this way and that, slashing through the blackness. I reflexively wince, and by the time I can open my eyes again, I realize that one of the accursed beams has come to a stop right on top of me, obliterating my cover.


I rise to my feet as I hear the muddy sloshes. They are no doubt running toward me, but the searing light continues to blot out my vision, preventing me from seeing anything. That vile light… Oh, how it burns! To one who has prowled in the darkness for so long, I daresay there is no greater enemy. Regardless, I plant my feet deep in the mud and grip the hatchet hanging from a chain attached to my belt. They no doubt aim to take me away, but they are no match for me.


“Stop right there! Hands up!” a voice commands, and I disobey it doubly. With a mad swerve I swing my arm in a wide arc, desperate to dispel the light. Bodies surround me as I hack at them. Every time I feel my axe chop through flesh and muscle, I pull it back with aplomb. Their fists and night-sticks rain down on me, but the pain only serves to fuel my anger.


A shot rings out through the dark. Perhaps I have been shot. I cannot tell, for the adrenalin already burns me from head to toe. Like a blazing red demon, I hack my axe straight into someone’s skull. I can feel the bone grind against my blade as I yank it back out. These brittle fools could never stop me.


At last, my eyes adjust to the light – or has the darkness merely grown more powerful? Either way, I see them now, completely encircling me. Numerous men are on the ground, moaning and clutching their bloody holes. Then, I notice how many of them there truly is, and how many firearms they yet point at me. It’s as if they’ve sent an entire platoon. I feel something warm and wet dripping down my left arm. I stagger, but I let out a roar, ordering my legs to stay firm.


They’re here to capture me and use me, just like Doc once had. They’ll never believe me. They’ll never take me seriously. They won’t even spare a few minutes to read my new novel. I can see it in all of their eyes, and it makes me seethe like never before. Growling, I raise my axe once more, and a second gunshot rings out. Hot pain rushes through my hand. I try to regrip my axe, but it’s nowhere to be found. Another gunshot rings out, and the next thing I know, I’m on my knees. I can’t get up – on the contrary, my body falls forward, unable to support itself any longer.


In the next instant, they’re on me. Like a battering ram from above they pile onto me, pushing me into the quagmire, shoving their elbows into my spine. This can’t be happening. I try to force my body up with all my might, but it’s not enough. Have I ever felt this powerless before? Being hated, deceived, and belittled – these have always been part of my daily experience. I’m used to that. But true powerlessness… The feeling of absolute immobility is something quite different. Cold and suffocating, it grips my soul, mortifying me unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.


Is this how my battle ends? All that effort, all that struggling, all that blood shed…only to be crushed to the ground like the vermin who spent years laughing in my face. I grit my teeth, unable to swallow the full despair of my plight. I simply can’t bring myself to accept it. Yet I feel them beating down on me all the same, desperately trying to break me. Perhaps, after they’ve thoroughly destroyed my body, they will shatter my soul as well. And then, once all is said and done, there will be no more of me, and all of this will disappear into the ether  – nothing more than a trite, tortured nightmare, destined to be forgotten by all who still breathe.


But then I hear the sounds of commotion, and the weight on my aching shoulders lightens. I hear an explosion, followed by screams of horror, busied skittering, and inhuman snarls. Little by little, I feel the bodies disappear from above me until I can finally move. Whatever has happened has given me one last chance at escape. Gritting my bloodied teeth, I take it, slithering through the mud like a serpent, kicking desperately at the cold hands that still seek to retain hold of me.


Once I am free, I raise my body up and sit in the mud, gazing around desperately. My brain cannot make much sense of what I’m seeing. A bloody mass of bodies sits in the mud before me. Next to them, several men flounder madly in the mud as a swarm of spiders overtake them. From the mouth of each tiny spider drips yellow goo that sears and burns into their flesh. They shriek and swat the spiders away, but there are simply too many.


I notice one policeman running up to me from the side with bloodshot eyes, desperate to finish me off before he can meet his demise. But before he reaches me, an ear-shattering shot rings out through the dark, piercing his skull through the side. He drops to the ground, motionless.


I turn towards where I believe the shot came from, just in time to see four figures emerge from the darkness. They aren’t policemen… No, they look far too strange for that. Like dignitaries from hell they walk proudly out of the darkness, bodies brimming with confidence and power.


Perhaps due to instinctive fear, my eyes are first drawn to the two on the left and right, each a few steps back from two other men in the center. A thin woman in an ornate dress with a nest of greying hair bunched up above her shoulders. She studies me with cold eyes and the hint of a scowl. A young dandy in a top hat and fine clothes with a sniper rifle strapped to his back. His soft brown eyes regard me with pity.


Those two come to a stop at the edge of the carnage, while the two men in the center continue forward – an old, spectacled man wearing a complicated apron lined with straps, pockets, and tools, and a tall, well-built man clad in the most durable set of body armor I’ve ever laid eyes on. I can tell by his demeanor and the way he carries himself that he is surely ex-military. While the old man carries a strange cube in his hands, the tall man is completely unarmed. They both have warm smiles on their faces, peppered with excitement, like two children about to open a dearly-awaited Christmas present.


Who are they? Where did they come from? Why did they save me? Why do they stare upon me with such a mixture of intrigue, pity, and compassion? I can feel the alien power emanating from them, anything but human, and so I sit in slack-jawed awe, wondering what sort of forces Hell has sent to aid me. The curiosity is so gripping that I nearly miss seeing one of the policemen stand up from the mud. Flesh hangs from his bloodied face, and he raises his pistol with two terribly shivering arms.


“Die, you sons of bitches!” he shouts as he fires his gun. A red flash explodes from the tall man as he shoots forward. Where the bullet has gone is anyone’s guess – it’s all happening too fast. In the next instant, I hear the soft squelch of punctured flesh. Its another moment before my eyes can catch up with what’s happening. The tall man has punched his hand entirely through the policeman’s body. Viscera slips from his fingers as he pulls his hand back through the stunned corpse, allowing it to drop back into the gory mud.


And then, without any further ado, he walks towards me. I’m still sitting in the mud, dazed and dumbfounded as he smiles down upon me confidently and extends his bloody fingers.


“Seems like you got yourself into a bit of trouble. Need a helping hand?”



Of particular interest to me that night was the reaction the others had to the haggard man. Darya found him amusing, while Vito looked upon him with sad eyes, as one would an injured puppy. Sariel considered the man with great intrigue, for he had noticed that gleam of intelligence that I had also spied. And sure enough, once the Axeman calmed down, he began to speak to us. Despite his extraordinary strength, the Axeman was, without a doubt, still nothing more than a fragile human being.


It took little effort to prove to him that we had come to do him no harm. As far as we could tell, it was the first time he had seen anyone like us, who use supernatural means to bolster our strength. He lay helpless before us, yet we did not abuse him. On the contrary, we wanted him to live and grow beyond his wildest dreams. Sariel held his hand and spoke with passion about our goals to rid the world of inequality and hypocrisy. The Axeman particularly resonated with our detest for the liars who control the governments of the world.


The more we opened our hearts to him, the more he opened our hearts to us. By the end, he seemed as vulnerable as a lost, hungry child. We fed him with Malice, and he was satiated.


As of now, the Axeman has become a boon companion to both Sariel and myself. In between our work, he spends his time listening to jazz and writing adventure novels. He eats well, sleeps soundly in a warm bed, and most of all, he trusts us, for we understand him.


We sought to study him so that we could learn how to help him control the forces inside him, so that he may help us fix the world. I can only hope he has found solace in the fact that, for the first time ever, he has found companions who wish to see him reach his true potential. The Axeman has become stronger than ever in both body and mind – making this experiment another great success.


In conclusion, Axeman, I would like to thank you for all your contributions. I know you will eventually read this, as curiosity is an indelible quality of any intelligent man. I hope it has both delighted and enlightened you. And, as your closest friend, I would like to take the liberty of answering the question you posed in your journal entry: What do I think of you?


Axeman, I think you are magnificent.



Franz Eugene. Jan. 5, 1920