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|
HELL IS EMPTY & ALL THE DEVILS ARE HEREBy 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
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?”
“Could you answer out loud, please? The audio doesn’t pick up gestures or anything.”
“It’s OK. So you go to church in Shaker Heights?”
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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?”
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.
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