My name is Josh Hadley. One year ago, I received an unlabeled compact disc in the mail, inside a manila envelope with no return address. I’m a writer for the Las Vegas arts magazine Thump, and I get a lot of submissions from local bands, but usually with press kits, photos, the works. The CD I received nearly went into the wastebasket, but at the last moment I decided to check to see what the hell it was.
The music impressed me enough to look at the track information; the band’s name was ‘The Murder Merchants’, and a quick Google search brought up only one related reference in the local newsrag The Hawthorne Magnet, about a group of local teenagers missing since May of 2011, who had apparently formed a band named for some obscure comic book that won the 2011 ‘Grand RockThorne Ball’ contest. The blank CD sent to me was postdated several weeks after the date of their disappearance, and this led me to think there might just be a story in it.
A year later, I still don’t know anything more about them. I provided the Hawthorne police with the CD (after making a copy) and the envelope, and then I spent six months interviewing almost everyone in that bizarre little town in the middle of nowhere. Aida Neumann, Sandy Neumann’s grandmother, has never apparently possessed a camera, and none of the other missing youth’s families had anything to offer either. Willa Daniels has no relatives whatsoever, Douglas Leviant’s stepfather greeted me at the door with a loaded shotgun, and the Hohenstaufen family resembles the Munsters in many ways, although their creepy-as-hell ‘Uncle Friedrich’ did toss a few sketchbooks belonging to his ’little Klaus’ at me as he was shoving me out the door. It is from these sketchbooks that I have drawn the only images of these kids, except for a few photos hidden in the root directory of the CD itself, none of which show any of their faces, only dimly-lit pictures of a band-room, and various bizarre homemade musical instruments.
The search has become an obsession that has cost me my relationship, my health, my sanity, and nearly cost me my job. With no further leads, I have decided to release the CD as it was mailed to me, seven songs in all, along with some of the artwork and sketches from Klaus’s notebook. This is my way of challenging someone to come forward, anyone, who knows what happened to this band. All proceeds are being held in their name, except for a nominal sum to cover my expenses.
If you know where The Murder Merchants are, or what happened to them, send me an email. All communications will be kept utterly anonymous.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.