“Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff’s work blends the best elements of the noir, horror and thriller genres. Gritty and compelling, his writing is masterfully paced, pulls narrative tension as taut as piano wire … and then goes for the throat. Supremely talented, Nemcoff crafts finely-tuned muscle car fiction: delightful, determined and dangerous.”
–J.C. Hutchins, author of Personal Effects: Dark Art and 7th Son: Descent
DIARY OF A MADMAN
by Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff
Today, I woke up at 7 a.m., stretched for 20 minutes and made myself an egg white and spinach omelet with two pieces of wheat toast and the last of the margarine. Watched the news on KTLA for fifteen minutes. Caught a story about a possible teachers’ strike. Afterwards, I took a shower and got dressed (white buttoned-down JC Penney shirt, tan Dockers pants). Grabbed my gym bag and went into the office to pick up some new brochures. Told my supervisor I had a sales call in Torrance, but instead drove three hours to Bakersfield and murdered a man named Phil Testaleone.
Phil’s house was located in a tract of small and inelegant homes built in the 1950s. Two bedrooms, one bath, twelve hundred square feet, including one-car garage, all perched atop less than a quarter acre of land. Original brick exterior. Twenty-year-old aluminum windows (why people don’t replace those awful things is beyond me?). Roof that appears to have last been shingled more than a decade ago. Chain-link fence in the front. Old picket fence in need of a coat of paint on the south side belonging to the neighbors. Slightly bent screen door (lock already broken). Schlage doorknob lock with two deadbolts on the front and two on the back door leading out into the yard behind the house.
Grass was freshly cut, possibly yesterday (I love that smell). A rusted and forgotten swing set idles near the fence (made back when they used to build them out of steel, and not plastic) right next to a dirty and spider-infested pile of firewood. It was almost 2 p.m. when I got there. I circled the block and saw nobody, which was exactly what I was expecting since in the weeks I had been casing Phil’s house nothing in this neighborhood had changed. A few doors down, the one house on the street for sale still had the same sign on the lawn. (And someone please tell me why the hell do realty whores think they need to put their mug shot on everything? Sheesh!).
Three blocks away, I parked on the street with several other cars near the Von’s market on Henderson. In the back seat I took the grey meter reader’s coverall out of my gym bag and put it on. (It’s a bit looser after I dropped those five pounds). The surgical gloves, I slipped into my pocket.
Because there was no need, I didn’t bother appearing to be checking meters until I was on Phil’s block, and with the hat pulled down on my head and these fake eyeglasses, I was nobody. I once read somewhere that the whole idea when they designed these uniforms was to make the wearer invisible. (I should have thought of getting one of these outfits sooner, but what can you do? Live and learn.)
At Phil’s house, I made it into his backyard by hopping over the gate when nobody was looking.
One scary moment, I caught my leg on the top of the fence and slightly ripped the coverall. Quickly checked the fence for fibers and my leg to see if I was bleeding. Luckily no on both, but decided I should seriously consider dropping another five pounds.
With no one home and both neighbors at work, it took me less than a minute to pry one of the flimsy aluminum windows with a screwdriver. As I got it open, I thought of the combined four deadbolts on both doors and had to stifle a small laugh.
I pulled myself into the second bedroom and, once inside, tried to take in the aroma of Phil’s house but was denied the home’s natural scent by way of a Glade plug-in air freshener trying to convince me summer lilacs smell like something from Dow Chemical.
I’m almost convinced people are so accustomed to what’s fake that they prefer it to the real thing. I mean, when the fuck have you ever had grape soda that actually tasted like grapes?
In the hallway, I could catch the hint of bleach in the air and followed it to a pair of accordion doors hiding an old washer/dryer pair. Inside the washer was a load of whites. Hanes underpants and T-shirts, socks. Probably all new, as of two Christmases ago.
The dryer was empty.
Very little in the fridge except for tomato juice, eggs, bread, mayonnaise, mustard, deli-cut lunchmeat (ham and beef tongue) and Swiss cheese. In the cupboards, I found mostly soup and one bottle of imitation maple syrup. There was hardly any doubt in my mind Phil has lived alone here ever since his mother passed away a year and a half ago. Throughout the house, I counted three photos of her. One faded black and white snapshot of a young woman with wavy hair wearing the uniform of a WAC from the Second World War, reminds me of an old postcard.
At some point, I realized I’d been staring at the WAC photo for fifteen minutes. Honestly, it started to give me the creeps, so I pushed it off the wall. After that, I went into the garage to hunt around.
Phil came home right on time, a little past six. I had been waiting just behind the door and when he closed it while flipping through his mail, I grabbed him from behind. I clamped my right hand over his mouth very tightly and used my left to hit him in the neck with the stun gun. He reacted quickly, quicker than I thought, trying to elbow me. Everybody gets one good shot thanks to the adrenaline. Thankfully he didn’t get the lucky shot.
His elbow to my ribs didn’t hurt at all and as I kicked his legs out from under him and brought him to the floor I could feel the fight go right out of his body. I waited for the stun gun to recharge and hit Phil again, holding it to his skin until he passed out.
I originally had thought I would drag him to the kitchen but after some thought I finally decided on the small dining area.
Phil awoke a half hour later, and as expected, tried to scream through the duct tape covering his mouth. I had wrapped it three times around his head to make sure there was no chance—better safe than sorry. He was secured to a chair at the head of the table, wrists and ankles taped to the thick armrests and legs. They really don’t make furniture like that anymore.
I kept the light low and the shades drawn, nothing out of the ordinary. I even put the TV on in the living room. (It’s the small details that matter. Remembering them reminds me I’m in control.)
When Phil came to, his eyes went so wide I nearly had to laugh. He looked like one of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons when Elmer Fudd sits on a thumbtack or something. I could see that he was scared, even though he tried to pull it together quickly.
But once he saw what I had taken from his garage, he broke down. He had to have known what was going to happen next.
Truth was, I hadn’t expected to find a cordless drill, but I did come across an old plug-in Craftsman that was heavier than a brick along with a nicely coiled twenty-five-foot orange extension cord. The drill bits found in the box nearby were old and needed sharpening, but I was pretty certain they’d be good enough to go through skin, muscle and bone.
Hovering over Phil, I held up the drill and gunned it once for effect. I watched him begin rocking back and forth in the heavy chair, struggling to break free out of instinct. Had he been thinking, he would have realized it was a completely fruitless effort.
Where does the saying “fruitless” come from? Archaic from when folks used to go out foraging to survive and the resulting feeling of coming back empty-handed? I can’t understand it. Why not take a crossbow with you? You’re bound to find something to eat if you look hard enough.
I let Phil rock back and forth a bit because I could finally smell the acrid scent of sweat coming off him. Eventually, I pushed him backward, tipping him over until he and the chair slammed on the floor half on and half off the Persian rug. I’d bet anything that was a real Persian too, not some made-in-Mexico knockoff.
I leaned down and pushed the point of the bit against Phil’s shoulder and the moment I hit the trigger his body jolted as if struck by lightning. I put my other hand on his chest to hold him in place and drilled until I hit bone. I was feeling good so I drilled a second hole before moving to the other shoulder. Then I decided the holes weren’t big enough so I went back to the garage. There, hanging on an old pegboard, was a thick, half-inch masonry bit I’d missed before, still wrapped in the blister pack it had been sealed in sometime during the 1970s.
When I’d gotten back to Phil’s dining room, he had managed to roll over onto his side in a lame effort to get to the door. I kicked him back over and told him I was going to punish him for his disobedience, and I used the masonry bit on his hip, actually feeling it snap once I punched through the thick bone.
The other thing I’d brought back with me from the garage was a nice old-fashioned claw hammer. I actually had to hold each of his knees down with one hand while I went to work on them with the other. (Five whacks to shatter the left one. Seven for the right.) It had always been my feeling that if you break the knees first, it makes it easier to do the feet without too much of a fight.
I took Phil’s shoes off (Florsheim, nice!) but left his socks on (one black, one blue—colorblind, Phil? Maybe?) before using the claw end of the hammer on his feet. Within two or three swings, I’d lacerated them, tearing flesh away with each successive blow. I’d even managed to splatter myself in the process so it was probably a good thing I had on an old apron I found in the kitchen.
Phil squeezed his eyes shut from the pain and it annoyed me so I went through the drawers in the kitchen and found a pair of orange-handled scissors. I put my knee into Phil’s chest as I pulled his eyelids up and cut them away. There. The last thing I wanted was to have all this hard work of mine go unappreciated.
I took the scissors in my hand and used one of the points to stab right through Phil’s cheek into his mouth where it made a slight popping sound. I kept stabbing his cheek until I’d punched a hole big enough to see his tongue then I began stabbing that as well until it looked like a lump of bloody hamburger. I hadn’t been planning on doing that. I love it when I improvise.
Phil had weakened immensely from the blood loss, so I decided to think about wrapping things up a bit. I went into his bedroom to get the items I’d found earlier.
When I showed them to Phil, he began crying and it occurred to me that he hadn’t even shed a tear until this very moment. I told him what I like about older gardening shears is that they’re made from cold-forged steel. Steel made in the U.S., and not this imported Chinese garbage.
“But I guess you know that by now, huh Phil?” I told him.
When I showed him the cigar box I had found hidden high on a shelf in his closet, he tried to turn away. I opened the lid to reveal all of the tiny severed fingers. Most of them shriveled and blackened with age. One, maybe half the size of my own fingers, looked fairly fresh, maybe a month old.
I held the tiny finger up to him. There was a hint of pink polish on a chipped nail and I thought of a news story I’d seen weeks ago about an eight year-old girl who’d vanished from a playground as her mother’s attention was focused on a cell phone. I’d seen the posters with the girl’s face as far away as L.A.
Jody Sue Montgomery.
They never found her, and right now I was pretty certain I was holding up her ring finger. One that would never see an engagement or wedding ring because of Phil Testaleone, a forty-seven-year-old pedophile who, as the cigar box would testify, apparently loved to collect trophies.
I put the small and delicate finger back into the box and closed the lid. I picked up the claw hammer and used the head to smash into the duct tape covering his mouth, bringing it down hard as I heard his teeth shatter underneath. I believe I said something to him, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. It’ll probably come back to me later.
At some point, I must have turned the hammer around to the claw end because when I looked down, Phil’s face had caved in on one side. Quickly, I stopped because I wanted to make sure he was positively identified.
So then I picked up the drill and used the masonry bit on his abdomen and chest, trying to remember where all of the major organs were located. After several tries, I found his heart and sometime during the second hole I’d put in it, it must have given out.
I slipped out of Phil’s shirt (and the pair of his shoes I’d squeezed into). In the kitchen sink, I used a lighter to completely melt the surgical gloves I’d been wearing before dropping them down the disposal. I took off my coveralls and put on the dark sweatpants and shirt in my gym bag and left out the back door sometime after 1 a.m. The street was dark and quiet and I walked to my car and drove home. All the way back, I fought the urge to stop and pick up a pack of cigarettes.
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WARNING: EXTREME GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL CONTENT.
DIARY OF A MADMAN is a splatterpunk symphony of hardcore violence and sex wrapped in a tight-as-nails noir narrative about loss of self. Told in a casual first person style, DIARY OF A MADMAN details one man’s fixation with infamous serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Harv “The Hammer” Carignan, The Genessee River Killer and Andrew Cunanan and his obsession with catching the serial murderer known as the “Interstate Slasher”. During the day, he hides behind his bland persona as a salesman but outside of the office politics he is very serious about his “hobby”. However, as he kills more victims his world begins to unravel around him and what he finds on his murder and sex-fueled journey will shock you right to the very last page.
What listeners are saying on iTunes about DIARY OF A MADMAN
Wonderfully Delicious – A Window Into the Darkness.
The author/narrator truly captures the deviancy of a serial killer’s mind, heart and soul. The author paints an authentic profile of a killer. It appears the author has done a commendable job on his research. As a professor of child psychology, with a strong interest in violent behavior disorders, I enjoyed peering inside the mind (while fictional) of a serial killer. Thank you, Mark.
…His precise knowledge of human physiology lends an almost Tom-Clancy-like second-by-second suspense to the actual description of this murderous efficiency, which is very very chiling (Nemcoff must have some medical traiing)… this book was an unexpected guilty pleasure, and I found myself checking my earbuds to make sure no one was overhearing his wickedly delicious narrative.
I have to say the first chapter threw me for a loop. The detail of the murders and the language were a bit unsettling. After the second chapter… I have become addicted to the book. The description, from the point of view of a killer, is definitely colorful, insightful and entertaining. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a beautifully written thriller.
WOW! Truly twisted and unavoidably addicting.