Greetings my friends and readers. It's been a while since I've posted, and I wanted to take a brief moment to update you.
First, a belated blessed Samhain and Happy Halloween to you all. The day here in northeastern Ohio was subdued for my family, but still beautiful.
As some of you know, my partner of over a decade has spent the last several years fighting chondrosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. When this battle began, we were extremely hopeful, since statistically it's a very survivable form of cancer that's treated with surgery. Unfortunately, my partner wasn't on the winning side of the statistics. The tumor that was removed regrew, and spread.
I've not shared this publicly before now, but I'm left with little choice. This year has been full of incredibly high high's and devastatingly low low's. It's resulted in me putting my writing on hold for family, something I do not regret. Life happens, and we do the best we can with what we have.
I'd like to thank my friends, family, readers, and my writing groups (Free Fiction Friday, Akron NaNo, & The Writer's Workout) for all of your support this year. It's enabled me to continue writing & to attack my work with a fresh perspective. It's my sincere hope that the hardship, tears, joy, and pain of this year inspires deeper and more meaningful content.
Now onto the story.
I fully intended to post the first chapter of this for Halloween. Since that didn't happen, the story will be posted throughout November, culminating on Black Friday - which I find both satisfying and appropriate. I hope you enjoy Hell is Empty & All the Devils Are Here.
Dante & Virgil In Hell (1850) - William-Adolphe Bouguereau
HELL IS EMPTY & ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE
By Tucker McCallahan © 2015
This is a copyrighted work of fiction. All rights reserved.
1 – JUNE 19, 2015, MORNING
“Once drops of blood are shed upon the ground they cry out for still more blood.” ~ Aeschylus
Detective Zachary Blake stared up at the high-rise building from the quiet of the car he shared with his partner, Detective Justin Easton. The front of the building had already been cordoned off with wooden barricades and police tape. Big surprise–the media had already shown up. Several reporters Zach didn’t want to tangle with filmed segments for the morning news.
“Live at six, murder and mayhem on the West Side.” Justin’s droll voice cut through the dread building in Zach’s gut.
“Yeah.” Zach pocketed the keys.
“You catch the action on the window?”
Zach climbed out of the unmarked Dodge Charger. He peered up at the high-rise again. The June sun had broken the horizon and crept steadily up the side of the building, creating a headache-inducing glare. Zach shaded his eyes with one hand.
“Seven windows up, two in from the right.”
Zach zeroed in on the window in question. Two messy, dark red stripes haphazardly scored the inside of the window. After ten years with the Cleveland PD–four as a detective–Zach knew blood spray when he saw it.
He and Justin headed for the entrance. Both ignored the shouted questions from reporters and ducked under the caution tape. Uniformed officers milled around everywhere. Several took statements. Zach caught snatches of the conversations as he and Justin walked to the bank of elevators.
“Never had a problem with either–”
“Levi’s been my neighbor for years; I just can’t believe–”
“I knew that boyfriend was trouble: I warned–”
Justin and Zach slipped into one of the four elevators and hit the button for the seventh floor. The doors slid shut silently. They both glanced around the elevator interior. Floor to ceiling mirrors, thick plush carpeting, and not one but two security cameras embedded into the car. Justin was utterly devoid of emotion as he ran a hand along the genuine oak trim gilded with shining, regularly polished silver. He glanced at Zach.
“We know what the vic did for a living?”
“Levi Reisbeck was a corporate attorney. Worked downtown for the Fed.”
The doors opened and they emerged into chaos. The medical examiner had already arrived, and Zach could hear the crime scene techs murmuring as they snapped pictures and set up evidence markers. The ranking onsite officer met Zach and Justin three steps into the condo.
“Glad you could make it.”
“Hell of a party,” Justin said quietly.
“It doesn’t get any weirder than this.” Sergeant Feldman shook his head.
“Oh I don’t know.” Zach’s sharp gaze swept the spacious entryway, the immaculate great room, the open kitchen beyond and multiple pieces of museum-quality art and sculpture scattered throughout the home. “That burned guy we pulled out of Lake Erie was pretty strange.”
“That wasn’t even homicide.” Feldman frowned at Zach as they moved through the condo. The three men stopped at the doorway to the master bedroom. “This definitely was.”
“What gave that away?”
Levi Reisbeck lay naked in the center of a massive king-sized bed, his throat gaping open like some obscene second smile. Wet, tacky blood had spread around the body in a Georgia O’Keefe-esque blossom. Zach looked over at the medical examiner.
“Time of death?”
“Very recent. Maybe two hours.”
“Who called 9-1-1?”
“The victim’s alleged boyfriend, Griffin Edwards.” Feldman checked his notepad. “He was arrested and taken to division headquarters.” The sergeant met Zach’s eyes. “He confessed.”
“Whoa.” Justin whistled softly. “Can we get closer to the bed?”
“Sure.” The ME nodded as he scribbled on a tablet. “We’ve taken a whole album-full of photos. We’ll run him in and do all the standard tests.” The physician used his plastic-covered stylus to point toward an old-style straight razor covered in gore that lay on one of the six pillows. “Weapon’s right there. He was almost decapitated; the blade cut through both external and internal jugular veins, the left external carotid, and the trachea. He even severed part of the thyroid cartilage.”
Zach and Justin pulled nitrile gloves on and stepped into the fray.
“Is that significant?”
“Takes a lot of adrenaline or physical strength to get through protective cartilage with a razor.”
“Looks like the body was arranged.” Justin cocked his head as he gazed down at what remained of Levi Reisbeck.
“It was.” The ME stepped up and indicated each arm with his covered stylus. “See the bloody prints on the arms?” He then pointed up at the gaping throat wound. “The length of the slice, the angle, the depth, plus the arterial spray on the bed, wall, and window all indicate a slashing motion, left to right, from behind. See how the cut is shallow on that left side and angles up toward the right ear?”
Justin and Zach absorbed the information, their gazes intent on the body.
“Dude went downright Sweeney Todd on this guy.” Justin shook his head slowly.
Zach edged closer, careful not to step in any of the blood spattered across the expensive carpeting.
“So the boyfriend–”
“Alleged boyfriend,” Feldman supplied.
“Right.” Zach offered the veteran sergeant a sardonic smile. “Because most buddies party naked, front to back, on a big bed.”
“I’m just telling you what the subject said.”
“Were you first on the scene?”
“Bright and early. Good thing I didn’t have time for that egg McMuffin.”
“We responded to the 9-1-1 call. Found the victim on the bed; Edwards covered in blood. He told us he slit the vic’s throat. We arrested him, called it in, had a black and white cart him off.”
Zach leaned down, his face uncomfortably close to the dead man’s gaping throat wound. His head whipped back to the ME.
“You get pictures of this?”
“The marks by the laceration? Yes.”
“Any theories on what caused them?”
“I have a good idea, but I’ll let our tests and measurements confirm it.”
“They look like teeth marks.” Zach’s deep blue eyes bored into the physician.
“There’s a swirl pattern under the left ear, too.”
“I see that.” Zach stared at the wound and marks, his face so close the fruity metallic odor of the blood oxidizing almost overwhelmed him. “Lick marks.”
“You mean …” Justin’s face pinched. “Edwards slit his throat and sucked his blood?”
“I’ll know for sure after autopsy.” The ME sounded calm and detached, but his eyes gave him away. He looked unsettled.
Zach continued to gaze at Levi Edwards’ slit throat. The cut was so deep across his windpipe Zach could see the faint glint of white bone. Zach tried to envision the crime: the killer behind the victim, one arm across his chest as he sliced the throat open, mashed his face into the spurting wound, and swallowed hot blood. The image disturbed Zach on a visceral level.
He was about to back up when a sliver of dark shadow rippled through the deepest part of the wound. Zach squinted; sure it had been a trick of the light. His eyes searched through the mutilated tissue and coagulated blood to find that bit of darkness again. He carefully put one gloved hand on the bed and the other on the body, leaning even closer, but he saw nothing. He wrote it off to his brain trying to process the gore. Zach pulled back and made sure not to touch anything with his bloody gloves.
“You good, partner?” Justin’s concern was clear in his voice. He and Zach locked eyes. The corners of Zach’s mouth quirked up.
“Our first vampire. Can’t wait to meet him.”
Without another word, Cleveland’s finest detectives turned and left the crime scene, pausing by the door to drop their gloves in the biohazard bag.
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Once again, thanks so much for reading! Comments are, as always, craved and appreciated.
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