Friday, November 27, 2015


Happy Black Friday and belated Happy Thanksgiving! No matter where you were or who you were with, I hope you found something for which to be grateful this year. 

And now for the final installment of Hell Is Empty & All The Devils Are Here...

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Dante & Virgil in Hell (Close), William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1850

By Tucker McCallahan

5 – JUNE 19, 2015, AFTERNOON

“He that fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” ~ Friedrich Nietzche

“You’re Christian.”

“Methodist, yeah.”

Detective Justin Easton’s hand went automatically to the gold cross around his neck. They’d started video and audio recordings, and Griffin Edwards had signed and initialed his Miranda paperwork. He’d agreed to speak to Justin and Zach without an attorney, but they hadn’t gotten much further than the proper spelling of Grif’s full name and his birthdate.

“I go to church every Sunday.”

“Oh yeah? Which one?”

“Seventh Day Adventist on Green Road.”

“That’s over in Shaker Heights, right?”

Grif nodded.

“Could you answer out loud, please? The audio doesn’t pick up gestures or anything.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“It’s OK. So you go to church in Shaker Heights?”

“Every week.”

“That’s a long way from the West Side.”

“Well, I live in Shaker Heights.”

“You don’t live in the condo off Detroit?”

“Huh uh. I live with my parents.”

“What’s that address?” Zach asked. It was the first time he’d spoken since walking Grif through the Miranda paperwork.

“3521 Townley.”

“Isn’t that off Van Aken?” Justin reengaged Grif as Zach wrote down the information on a legal pad.

“Closer to 422.”

“Yeah I know that area.” Justin nodded, smiling. “Good neighborhood.”

“I’ve lived there my whole life.” Grif returned the smile. “My parents bought the house right after they got married.”

“How’d you meet Levi if you live in Shaker Heights?”

Grif’s face crumbled. He folded his hands, still handcuffed to the table.

“I work at a bar on the West Side.”

“Which one?” Zach asked.


“Is that one of the newer spots?”


“You met Levi there?” Justin asked.

Grif nodded.

“Out loud, please.”


“When was that?” Justin’s voice was smooth and calm. “How long have you known him?”

“Um, since last Christmas. He and some friends came to the Winter White Party.”

“Sorry…what’s that?”

“It’s, uh, this party where everybody dresses in white? We had the bar all decorated with snow and stuff.” Grif brightened. “I made a great big Olaf.”

“You did what now?”

“The snowman from Frozen. Olaf?” Grif blushed. “I built him out of Styrofoam globes and sprayed him with glitter.”

Zach chuckled softly, but never took his eyes from his legal pad. Justin nodded slowly.

“Gotcha. And this was at your work?”

“Yeah, the Winter Party.”

“Lot of people go to that?”

“It’s a big deal.”

“So you met Levi, and you guys hit it off. You been boyfriends since the White Party?”

Grif tangled his fingers together and stared at the table, eyebrows drawn down in a frown.

“No. We aren’t together.”

“Are you sure?” Zach asked.

“Grif… Is it OK if I call you Grif? Me and Zach, we don’t judge anybody. That’s not our job. We’re just trying to figure out what happened. You know, like putting a puzzle together.” Justin leaned forward, his entire demeanor understanding and accepting. “We need your help.”

“I want to help.”

“Good. That’s great.” Justin’s smile was genuine. “Now Levi’s neighbors, they said you were at the condo every day.”

“I guess.”

“You had your own key?”


“But you didn’t live there?”

“No.” Grif was adamant.

“Did Levi want you to live with him?” Zach asked.

Grif nodded, his eyes filling with tears.

“Could you speak up, please?”

“We fought about it.”

“About the two of you living together,” Justin clarified. “Did you fight about that Thursday night? The eighteenth?”

“We didn’t fight.” Grif’s cheeks went red hot and he all but squirmed.

“What happened Thursday night?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Did you work?”

“Uh huh, yeah. Six to two.”

“At the bar. Bilbo’s?” Zach asked.


“But you didn’t go to your parents’ house after work. You went to the condo, right?”

“Levi picked me up.”

“He do that a lot?” Justin asked.

“He doesn’t like me riding the bus.” Grif stared at the gray wall. “He says it’s not safe.”

“So you went to work, and Levi picked you up, and the two of you went home together.”

“Yes,” Grif whispered.

“But you didn’t argue about you moving in.”


“You guys had been together, what, for six months?”


“Did you break up at some point?”

“No. We just weren’t, you know, like that.”

“Like what, Grif?” Justin’s voice drew Grif’s eyes back to him. “Everybody says Levi loved you. That you guys seemed real happy. Are they lying?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s OK if Levi loved you. We get that people fall in love.” Justin studied Grif’s miserable face. “Did he love you?”

“I guess.”

“All right. Thursday night…did you go back to the condo so he could love you?”

“I don’t remember.”

“It’s important, Grif. We need you to tell us the truth. We need to figure out what happened.”

“I killed him.”

Justin’s eyes flicked up to the camera recording the interrogation; it was recording. Zach didn’t react to Grif’s confession at all.

“You killed Levi?” Justin asked.

“Yes.” Grif’s eyes overflowed. “I had no choice.” He broke into sobs.

“Why didn’t you have a choice?”

“He kept telling me to do it.”

“Levi asked you to kill him?”

“No, but he should’ve.”


“He was evil.”

“How was he evil?”

“He was a sodomite.”

“Is that why you killed him?”

“I had to. He wouldn’t stop telling me to do it.”


“I don’t know. A voice.”

“A voice? Where did you hear this voice?”

“Everywhere. All the time. He wouldn’t leave me alone.”

The Damned, Luca Signorelli, 1499-1504

“Tell me about the voice, Grif.” Justin passed Grif a tissue.

“He wouldn’t shut up. Wouldn’t go away.” Grif turned anguished eyes to Justin. “I had to do it.”

“You heard this voice Thursday night?”

“All the time.”

“So you got to the condo, and you and Levi had sex, and the voice told you to kill him?”

“Yes.” Grif broke into fresh sobs. “I killed him. I loved him so much and I killed him!”

“Did Levi hurt you in any way?”

“No. It was the voice. It wouldn’t shut up!”

“What did it say?”

“That I needed his blood to be clean.”

“Is that why you drank his blood?”

“I had to wash away my sins.”

“Have you heard the voice since you got here?”


Zach flipped through the legal pad and tapped his pen against it. He looked up at Grif.

“We had somebody look at your computer.” Zach continued to gaze at Grif as he wrote. “You remember being on Google last week?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Your history shows you use it a lot.”

“I guess. Doesn’t everybody?” Grif sniffled. “Can I have another tissue?”

Justin handed him the box. Zach stared as Grif wiped his runny nose.

“Your history shows a search for ‘cut throat.’”

“It does?” Grif looked confused.

“Yes. Maybe you got frustrated with Levi and typed it in.” Justin was sure to keep eye contact with Grif. “Could that have happened, Grif?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sure? I search for all kinds of things on Google. Anything that catches my interest. Could you maybe have searched for how to cut somebody’s throat?”

“I don’t remember.”

“What about searching for ‘sentry neutralization’?” Zach cocked his head, watching Grif.

“I don’t know what that is.”

“Were you ever in the military?”


Zach scribbled on the legal pad. Justin frowned, but the lines on his face faded away to pleasant neutrality by the time he spoke.

“Grif, when you stabbed Levi… How did you do it?”

“On the bed.”

“Yeah, but how?” Grif looked baffled by Justin’s question. “Were you next to Levi? On top of him? Behind him?”


“When you did it, did you think it was a right or wrong thing to do?”

“Wrong. It was wrong.”

“But you did it anyway. From behind him.”


“Like a ninja.” When Grif didn’t respond, Justin moved on. “What did you use to kill him?”

“My razor.” Tears spilled continually down Grif’s face like rain slanting against a window. “It was my granddad’s, and now it’s gone.”

“It’s not gone, Grif. We had to take it and enter it into evidence.”

“Can I get it back?”

“We’ll see.”

Regardless of whether Grif was sent to prison or an institution, he wouldn’t be allowed a razor. Justin didn’t bother getting into any of that. He noted the time, stood, and stretched. “Hey, you want a cup of coffee or a soda? I didn’t ask if you smoked. We don’t, but I can get you a cigarette if you want one.”

“I don’t smoke.” Grif shifted in his seat. “I could really use a Pepsi, though.”

“One Pepsi, coming up. Anything else? Candy bar? Chips? The vending machine has some sandwiches. I don’t eat them; but if you’re feeling hungry and brave…”

“Chips would be good.”

“You got it. Be right back.”

Justin left the room. Grif used two more tissues to wipe his nose and red eyes. Zach’s head came up and he locked gazes with Grif. Shadows swam through Zach’s deep blue eyes, like ink mixing into ocean water. Grif went very still, and an answering blackness swirled through his eyes.

As quickly as it happened, the darkness vanished.

Justin opened the door and walked in with a can of Pepsi and a small bag of Doritos. He opened them for Grif and set them on the table. Grif managed to snag the Doritos, but with his hands cuffed to the table, he couldn’t drink the Pepsi without performing contortions.

“If I take those cuffs off, you promise not to hit me or Zach?” Justin asked.

“I’d never hit a man.”

“I believe you.” Justin took the keys from his pocket. “Hold your hands out.”

Justin wrapped a big hand around Grif’s wrist, turning the cuff to fit the key into it. Zach watched out of the corner of his eye. As Justin unlocked the cuffs, a tiny black splinter slithered along Grif’s skin and jumped to Justin. Justin removed the cuffs and put them in his pocket.

“We’ll take a break and let you eat. The tech guy has some questions about your computer.”

Grif blinked slowly, rubbing his wrist. He frowned and looked around the room.


“We’ll be back in a bit.” Zach stood and Justin copied him. “Relax for a minute.”

“Where am I?”

“Cleveland Police Division Headquarters.” Justin appraised Grif warily. “You feeling OK?”

“I don’t know.” Grif looked panic-stricken. “I don’t remember getting here.”

“It’s OK. We’re gonna stop for a little while.” Justin turned the recorders off. “Have a snack. Chill out.”

Grif glanced around, frightened. Justin motioned and Zach gathered his things. They exited the interrogation room. Grif’s entire body shook. He nibbled a Dorito like a terrified rabbit.

Out in the hallway, Justin and Zach met the cyber-crime detective and exchanged paperwork.

“All yours,” Zach said.

“Thanks.” The cyber-crime detective opened the door and strolled inside. “I’m Detective Adam Rogers. I’m with the–” The door swung shut and cut off the sound.

“Whattaya think?” Justin asked. He and Zach walked to the elevator and stepped inside. Zach hit the button for the second sub-basement.

“That was fun.”

The doors slid shut.

“I enjoyed it immensely.” Justin brimmed with self-satisfaction.

The elevator reached the underground parking level and the two detectives strolled out into the dim complex. It was muggy again, but neither man paid the humidity any attention as they walked to the unmarked Dodge Charger.

“Ready for more?” Zach asked.

The two men paused before opening their car doors and gazed at each other over the roof of the vehicle. Darkness eclipsed their eyes, devouring all the color.

“Oh yeah.” A frightening smile crawled across Justin’s face. “These two have guns.”

The car doors slammed with fatal finality, and icy cold laughter echoed through the summer heat as the Charger sped away.


* * * *

Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 

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Friday, November 20, 2015


Happy November 20th, friends. I hope you're all gearing up for next week's holiday and the retail therapy that particular holiday affords us all.

Since I was a week late in starting this story, this week I'm posting parts 3 & 4. The conclusion, part 5, will post next week on Black Friday.

I hope the story's enjoyable; it's different from anything I've written before. I really enjoyed the research into the Cleveland Police Department, interrogation techniques, and writing a crime drama. If I've missed anything or made glaring errors, please leave a comment and let me know!

With no further blathering, enjoy parts 3 & 4 of Hell Is Empty & All The Devils Are Here.


Laocoon & His Sons; 1506; Athenodorus, Polydorus, & Agesander of Rhodes

by Tucker McCallahan
3 – JUNE 13, 2015, EVENING

“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Grif dressed stiffly, yanking his tight, skinny jeans up over his hips. A whisper on the still air of the condo brought his head up like a prairie dog. His head whipped right and then left as he strained to listen.

The only audible sound was the extremely loud ticking of the antique clock in the great room.

Still, Grif couldn’t shake the sensation of being watched. He felt the eyes on his body, sensed something tracking every move he made. Tears filled his eyes. Being gay wasn’t his fault. It’s just what he was. He swallowed the sob threatening to burst from his throat. His parents had warned him ….

You know what to do.

The shock of the voice whispering in his ears sent Grif to the floor. He crouched low, desperately peering around the bedroom for the source of the voice.

He saw no one; he was alone.

You’ve sinned. You must make it right.

Grif clapped his hands over his ears. For a solid week he’d heard the voice. Sometimes it preached with such righteousness he ended up paralyzed with fear and shame. Other times, like now, it whispered insidiously.

“Stop. Please.” Grif spoke to the empty room, his voice pleading.

You know the law. If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

“Leave me alone!”

Grif scrabbled for his boots as the voice grew louder, repeating the damning verse from Leviticus 20 over and over again. With a strangled scream, Grif left his boots untied and fled from the condo out onto the street.

He was supposed to wait for Levi to get home. They were going to have dinner before Levi dropped Grif off at the bar for work. Grif couldn’t stay in the condo another second, and if he was honest, he didn’t really want to see Levi. His boyfriend would do the lawyer thing and badger him relentlessly about why he was being difficult and distant. Or worse, Levi would just give him that look and mutter about “petulant children.” The nine years that separated them­–which hadn’t mattered in the six months they’d been going out–had shown a lot lately.

Grif hurried down the street, immediately feeling warm and sticky in Cleveland’s close summer heat. Normally it wouldn’t bother him, but with the voice’s stern reprimand echoing in his ears, Grif felt dirty.


He stopped at the bus stop. It was abandoned at this hour on a Saturday. Everybody who had gone to work this morning had already gotten home, and anybody who was going out hadn’t left yet. Grif was going to get to the bar hours before his shift, but he needed to be around people. The servers would all be at the bar, getting ready to open.

The bus pulled up exactly on time. The driver greeted him, but Grif kept his head down and went to sit near the back of the bus. He didn’t want to talk to anyone.

The ride to work was blissfully quiet. Grif breathed slowly in an attempt to calm his nerves. When the driver pulled up to his stop, Grif moved up the aisle to exit the bus. The driver stared at him as he approached.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” The bus driver’s face was blank, his eyes a flat matte black. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Grif nearly leaped out of his skin. He ran from the bus and the driver, sprinting down Detroit Avenue.

The sight of the familiar sign above his workplace brought a small measure of comfort until Grif discovered the door was locked. He pounded on it with a closed fist. Just as he grew frantic, the door swung open. Cindy, one of the servers, stood in the open doorway. She looked at Grif like he’d gone insane. He shoved past her and headed straight for the bar.

“Uh … You know you’re like, an hour and a half early, right?”

Grif ignored her and helped himself to a healthy double shot of tequila. He slammed the shot back and immediately poured another.

“Did you and Levi break up?”

Grif didn’t even acknowledge her until he’d downed the third double shot. He used his foot to open the fridge below the bar and scooped the container of limes out. The plastic wrap over the container fluttered to the floor. Grif grabbed a wedge, shoved it in his mouth and bit down, his cheeks contracting as he sucked hard. His eyes watered, his stomach burned, but his head felt better almost instantly. He tossed the mangled lime in the trash and looked cautiously at Cindy.

“Yes. And no.”

“You broke up, but you didn’t?”

“Yes, I know I’m early, and no, we didn’t break up.” Grif collapsed onto the stool he wasn’t allowed to sit on during his shifts, his shoulders slumping. “Yet,” he added.

“What’s with the tequila?” Cindy radiated a mixture of concern and curiosity.

Grif fell silent. He had no idea what to say to her. If he told her the truth–that he’d been hearing voices for a week–she’d think he was crazy.

Maybe he was.

The tequila hit his stomach like an atomic bomb and numbed him from head to toe. Grif felt considerably more comfortable. If he was crazy, Cindy didn’t need to worry about him. He offered her one of his most charming smiles.

“How can I help you ladies?”

“You know Bill won’t pay you for the extra time.”

“That’s OK. I’m here; I might as well work.”

Cindy laughed and motioned him down the bar where she and another server wrapped silverware and put up clean dishes. Grif threw himself into the work, grateful for the repetitive motion and the company.

By the time they opened, Grif felt one hundred times better.


The Pancrastinae; 3rd Century BC; Uffizi Collection

4 – JUNE 17, 2015, NIGHT

“Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” ~ H.L. Mencken

A fly perched on the wall rubbing its front set of legs together. Grif focused on the fly and tried to block everything else out.

Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

“No.” Grif shook his head. “Please.”

You know what to do.

“I don’t.”

You shall be washed clean in the blood of the sinner.

“Thou shalt not commit murder.”

The wages of the wicked are sin and death.

Tears ran down Grif’s face. Whatever pursued him was relentless. It invaded every space, penetrated Grif’s every waking hour. He was never alone, not even in his mind. It lived inside him, violating his every thought. He couldn’t escape.

You are corrupted.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Only blood will free you.

“Thy kingdom come, thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Redemption comes only through blood.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Put to death sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.

Grif clapped his hands over his ears. His voice shook and trembled through the sobs he couldn’t control.

“L–lead us not into temptation, but–”

An image blossomed in Grif’s mind. Wrapped in a sensual embrace, Grif slid in and out of Levi’s body to the symphony of his moans. Grif faltered; his prayer fell silent. The vision expanded, surrounding and engulfing him. The bed creaked. The musky scent of sex filled Grif’s nose.

Unable to resist, Grif surrendered, and the vision devoured him.

Levi’s exquisite tightness sent tingles racing over Grif’s skin. Such rapture … Light from the Tiffany lamp reflected off the razor in his hand. Chest to Levi’s back, Grif wrapped Levi in a one-armed embrace. Perilously close to orgasm, Levi closed his eyes. His head dropped forward, and with a guttural moan, he rocked against Grif.




With one decisive stroke, Grif slashed Levi’s throat from ear to ear. His eyes flew open, solidly black, his mouth stretching open in a silent shriek. With a snarl, Grif yanked Levi’s head back. Blood sprayed, spurting in time to Levi’s heartbeat. Grif sank his teeth into the torn flesh. Air bubbled up through Levi’s severed trachea creating a gory scarlet froth. Grif’s tongue lashed at it, licking along the razor’s slice. He slurped at the rhythmic flow, swallowing Levi’s blood in great gulps.

Reality slammed into Grif, a hard body check that knocked the vision away. He screamed. Shadows exploded across the floor and rushed up the walls to envelope the ceiling, eating up the light. Living darkness poured down into Grif’s open mouth. He went rigid, and then collapsed to the floor in a heap.

The lights blinked back on, the condo silent. Grif slowly climbed to his feet and went to the tremendous Victorian-era silver mirror beside Levi’s closet. As he gazed at his reflection, inky blackness swirled through his pupils and he smiled.

“Deliver us from evil.”


Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated. 

Be Sure To Check Out The Other Stories:

Follow all your favorites and read the first 100 words on the group’s website: