The scene was jumpy. People were spooked. A low-level hysteria crept onto the streets and wouldn’t go away until the mystery of the - Mad Axe Murderer of Kings Cross - was solved. Even I was a little freaked, although the thing that worried me was whether the axe murderer was mad, or just an axe murderer. The newspaper reports were what did it, screaming headlines, enough to send out panic signals all over the city. Scare-mongering shit like this:
SYDNEY -- Police here were trying yesterday to track down a murderer terrorising the city's red light district after attacking three people with an axe -- and killing one. The most recent attack occurred on Saturday, when the killer approached his victim and struck up a conversation. Soon after, he produced a tomahawk and smashed his victim in the head. Detectives have issued a public warning not to travel alone in Kings Cross.
Man, everyone was looking over their shoulders, especially women and especially late at night. All the streets hookers were freaked. Backpackers moved onto to new destinations, the bums drank more, junkies harassed their connections, even the Bikie gangs went incognito.
At the work canteen gossip focused on one topic and one topic only, The Mad Axe Murderer of Kings Cross. A sense of the unknown had somehow brought people closer together, roused a long lost community spirit, and added a touch of humanity to the day to day living.
Nevertheless people were genuinely scared. Posters went up; the alleged killer depicted as a huge six-foot male with brutal features. Nurses refused to walk home alone, demanding paid taxi’s or bodyguards and custom at the Cross bars, strip clubs and brothels dropped by over fifty percent.
I was living with my fellow ex-pat Blondie, in a grotty little bedsit above a hock shop in the heart of the Cross. The flat was a veritable dump, but it had one redeeming feature. From the window you could observe the nocturnal activity of a group of street hookers. They were mostly trannies and junkies, but it was interesting in an anthropological way to see which type of men went with them, and believe me it was all types.
Despite the fact we were both working we never had any money and would often spend our evenings checking out the free entertainment. On the second week of the unsolved axe attacks me and Blondie were holed up in our crack den, beers in hand, keenly observing the after midnight activity. The girls worked in front of what was known locally as, The Wall.
‘Whaddya reckon geez, is he or aint’ he?’ I said, as a middle-aged Suit walked past, acting nervous.
Blondie raised his beer and took a long hit. ‘Na, he’s gone past the point?’
I knew what Blondie meant. It was the hesitant punters who usually lost their bottle, but earlier I’d seen Tanya flash her shaven pussy, and reckoned the sight of her labia would be enough to tip the Suit over the edge. I raised my beer.
‘Five dollars says he takes Tanya behind the Wall.’
‘Okay, you’re on.’
Once again the Suit hesitated. This prick really was in two minds. I imagined the thoughts running through his sozzled cranium. Miserable wife, horrible kids, twenty years of a thirty year mortgage left to pay, car loan, dead end job, a life of quiet desperation. And what if he caught a disease or the hooker robbed him? What if someone saw him in the act, a neighbour or work colleague? Life, as he knew it, would be over.
Tanya flashed her bald pussy once more and exposed her right tit. Blondie sighed loudly.
‘Oh shit, look at him, slobbering at the mouth, the gimp!’
The second glimpse of pussy and flesh was too much and the Suit succumbed. We manoeuvred to the second window of the flat.
‘Hey, hey, five bucks coming my way, amigo.’
‘Bollocks,’ said Blondie.
Once the cash transaction had been conducted Tanya bent over and the Suit dropped his trousers and stuck it in. It went on for a while and I don’t know about Blondie, but I got hot. Once it was over we watched some more free shows, a blow job, a hand job, and one freak sucking and reaming one of the trannies.
By that time we had polished off a slab of Toohey’s and were good and boozy, and more than a little horny.
‘Let’s hit the bars,’ I said.
Blondie shot me a worried glance. ‘What about the Mad Axe Murderer?’
‘Are you a man or a mouse?’
‘When it comes to Mad Axe Murderers I’m in the rodent category.’
I held my arms akimbo and pontificated. ‘It’s all paper talk geez, media panic signals, so they can sell their tedious rags, and somehow justify their pointless lives.’
‘But a tomahawk to the nut is a particularly violent way to die, I think I’d rather be shot or stabbed.’
‘Okay hammerhead, let’s examine the facts. Admittedly one unfortunate fella gets laid down, but that could’ve been drug or gang related.’
‘But what about the other reports, I mean there’s a pattern here, a trend.’
‘Bullshit, reports were unsubstantiated, it’s just a newspaper story and a pretty shit one at that. Let’s go to O’Malley’s and see if we can pull a couple of Euro backpackers.’
Outside it was a typical hot Sydney night, but the vibes were decidedly odd, somewhat ominous. Media panic signals can do that to a fella. On the way into the Cross we passed the brasses working the Wall. Tanya was there and I couldn’t resist letting her know.
‘You earned your dollars on that last one girl!’
‘You two been perving again, a? Why don’t you touch as well as look?’
‘Whoa, easy Tanya, you know we’re broke.’
‘Broke? You always seem to have money for grog.’
‘Come on Tanya, grog is a necessity, and anyway why would two handsome chaps like us pay for sex when there’s plenty of top tottie willing to give it away for free?’
Tanya fired up a cigarette and blew a thick cloud of grey smoke into the balmy night. ‘Keep dreaming Poms.’
O’Malleys was rammed with an assortment of Euro backpackers. They were mostly British, but there was a few Scandinavian, French, Spanish, Dutch, and German’s inter-mingled, even the odd Kiwi. Blondie and I brought two jugs of VB for the price of one and plotted up at the far end of the bar, a vantage point from which we could oversee the entire pub.
Eventually I spotted three unattached girls.
‘Bandits at two o’clock,’ I said.
Blondie zoned in. ‘English?’
‘Na, Irish, check out the accents.’
We shuffled a little closer and heard the soft lilting, almost melodic accent of the Southern Irish Lass. There was a blonde, a brunette, and a stunning red-head.
I winked at Blondie, ‘I’m going for the ginger one.’
‘What chat up line shall we use?’
After positioning ourselves next to the girls, we sent out a series of looks and glances. I’m not saying we were blatant, but it didn’t take long for the girls to notice. They began giggling. Next it was time for the ice breaker.
I strolled over with my jug of VB and addressed the blonde girl.
‘Excuse me, but my friend would like to tell you something.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘I mean, he thinks there’s something unique about you.’
The girl glanced to her friends and then back to me. ‘Really.’
It was then that Blondie moved in. ‘Did anyone ever tell you that your eyes are like spanners?’
‘My eyes are like what?’
‘Yeah, every time I look at them my nuts tighten.’
All three girls burst out laughing.
‘Oh my god, did ye hear what he just said, me eyes are like spanners?’
‘Is yer man taking the fecking piss?’
‘Anyone care for a drink?’ I offered.
‘Sure, why not,’ said the girls.
Once the ice was broken we went over the usual intro’s. The girls had just arrived in Sydney on the start of some vague world tour, and were in the mood to party. After a few more drinks we moved onto to a nightclub where we continued drinking, and then hit the dance floor.
At some point I found myself in a darkened corner with the red-head. Her friends were chatting to a group of public-school English rugby types and Blondie had disappeared.
I reckoned Veronica was giving me all the right signals and put into action the tried and tested Casanova maverick.
‘Would you like to come back to mine?’ I roared above the thumping techno.
Veronica flashed me a sexy smile and laughed sweetly. ‘I couldn’t do that, I mean I hardly know you.’
‘Just for a coffee.’
‘Get away with ya.’
‘Okay listen, I’ve had enough of it here, and if you promise to behave like the perfect gentlemen I’ll let you walk me home.’
Being drunk, I replied without thinking. ‘I’d love to.’
Once that was decided I did a frantic circuit of the club in search of Blondie, but he was on the missing list. When drunk he was notorious for disappearing without saying goodbye, thee old lightweight routine.
‘Right, where d’ya live?’ I asked Veronica as we left the club and stepped out into the night,
Mother, I thought. The Rocks were on the other side of town and what with a maniac on the loose? I weighed up the options and figured I’d have to take my chances.
On the long walk I kept sizing up Veronica out of the corner of my eye and reckoned it was two to one on I’d be getting my nuts in. Veronica was talking non-stop, mostly shit about future travel plans and exotic trips. I slipped effortlessly onto auto-pilot.
‘Sounds amazing. I’m really envious; you’ll have the time of your life.’
When we eventually stopped my hopes of a shag evaporated in an instant.
‘This is it.’ said Veronica.
It was a large Backpacker’s Hostel. Hostel dormitories equalled zero privacy. ‘Nice.’
‘Come on, give us a kiss then.’
We snogged for a good few minutes. Afterwards I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, as during the extended Frenchie the drools had accumulated.
‘Maybe see ya in O’Malley’s?’ I slurped.
‘Oh no, we’re off to Bryon Bay tomorrow.’
What a fucking time waster. ‘Okay, see ya then.’
‘Yes, goodbye Joseph, thanks for walking me home, and keep your eyes peeled for that old Axe Murderer fella!’
And with that it was just me, alone in the night, facing the long walk home in a city where possibly a Mad Axe Murderer or several were on the loose. And I hadn’t even got a shag. As I walked along with my eyes wide open I wondered if I was losing my touch.
Although it was late the streets were empty and eerie, giving me a feeling of uneasiness. I quickened my pace. Why did Veronica have to mention the Axe Murderer? At Woolloomooloo I took a short-cut through some back streets and was halfway up McElhone staircase when I saw him coming in the opposite direction. We were the only two people on the stone stairs. He was a big man, in fact he looked exactly like the photos that had been plastered all over the Cross. And he was holding something in his left hand. An axe!
I felt the fear, a wave of sheer panic, but there was nothing I could do, I was paralysed. My legs trembled and my hands shook. As we passed each other I fell against the stone wall of the staircase and waited for the tomahawk to smash my head in, but the expected mortal blow never materialised. The man just walked on by.
Afterwards I felt foolish, but frightened. I jumped the stairs two-by-two and sprinted into the Cross. By the time I got to the Wall I was sweating and breathing hard. I stopped to catch my breath when Blondie suddenly appeared.
‘What the fuck happened to you, you look like you’ve just seen a ghost?’
I was forced to think on my feet. ‘I just shagged that ginger Irish bird, and anyway where the fuck did you go?’
It was then that Tanya appeared, re-adjusting her underwear.
‘You come back for some as well Pom?’
‘After he’s be in there, do me a favour.’
Some poems from Joseph Ridgwell's upcoming poetry collection Wolf Star:
The Star Gazer
Drunken midnight blue
The stars, the stars
All around my eyes
The stars, the stars
Is anybody out there?
Ode to Rosaleen Norton
When I moved into Nori’s Old apartment
In Roslyn gardens
Amazingly the sign was still there
On the door of number 7
Faded and worn by the passage of time
I could just make out the inscription
‘Welcome to the home of ghosts, goblins,
Werewolves, vampires, witches, wizards
The sea is wild tonight
The waves, the waves, the waves
And creels rattle
And harbour shudders
And boat masts wail
In gloomy skeleton shadow
Of ruined castle.
After the eighth fuck Antoinette shot bolt upright in bed
‘Are you okay?’ I said.
‘Do you think you can die by fucking?’
I leaned over and pulled two cigarettes from a pack of Treasurer Aluminium Gold
I fired up both sticks and handed one to Antoinette.
I took a thoughtful drag.
’When I was in Thailand
There was this local prostitute, who went by the name of - The Jinx.’
Antionette took a puff from her cigarette
And they way she did it, was incredibly sexy
It was something to do with the juxtaposition
Of the smoke and her naked breasts.
I ruminated if a ninth fuck was possible
But number nine is my unlucky number
So I dismissed the idea
‘The Jinx?’ Said Antoinette.
‘Killed three punters in one week.’
‘What, murdered them?’
‘No, they died while on the job.’
‘You mean while they were fucking her?’
‘That’s exactly what I mean.’
‘That explains - The Jinx - moniker.’
‘Seeing off one was bad enough
But three in less than seven days was considered carelessness.’
‘Didn’t Oscar Wilde say something along the same lines?’
‘No, he said parsley is ghastly.’
Joseph Ridgwell was raised in East London and is a cult figure of the literary underground both in the UK and abroad. Ridgwell has published five collections of poetry, two short story collections, and three novellas. A second collection of stories was published by New York’s Bottle of Smoke Press in Summer 2015:
Ridgwell Stories was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize and was long-listed for the 2016 Saboteur awards.
In November 2015 - Leamington Books - published his long-awaited debut novel - Burrito Deluxe - On the Road for the Offbeat Generation.
Also published in 2016 were Jamaica & Mexico forming a trilogy with Cuba, which was published in 2014. The trilogy is published by Pig Ear Press.
A 6th collection of poetry - Cosmic Gigantic Flywheel - is due to be published in 2018 by Lenka Editions in Paris.
A 7th Collection of poetry - The Lost Beach Poems - will be published by New York’s Bottle of Smoke Press in the summer of 2018.
Ridgwell’s work has also appeared in numerous anthologies.
For further details of the authors work and current state of mind go to his website: