Author’s notes: This follows after Part Twenty, but flashes back to after Part Nineteen. This won’t make sense without the previous parts. In her excellent review to Part Twenty ‘Shadowcat’ asked the important question: How did Abe manage to get to where Kate and Mindy were being held? I hope what I write below makes sense.

The diner near NYU is fictional, but is typical of that area of Greenwich Village. Currently a Duane Reade drug store is at that location. The pub/steakhouse where Broom would have had the Halloween party earlier for Hellboy is also fictional. I have no idea what was in these locations in 1978. I’m working on the assumption that NYU’s academic calendar in 1978 is similar to what it is now.

Some of the technology I mention would be possible in 1978. However, dealing with NYC’s underground structures, I’m just winging it and would hope that what I write about the Old and New Croton Aqueduct systems is at least plausible. The basic information about the route of the aqueducts and their structures is factual; the rest is made up.

(Reminder: Even though my stories are mainly based on the movie, Abe here is slightly more ‘comicverse’ and does not need respirator or goggles.)

Chapter Five: Abe Sapien: Sibling Rivalry: Part Twenty-One

About fifteen minutes ahead of their arrival, Trevor Broom used his car phone to place a call to the diner near NYU that Kate Corrigan and Mindy Carlton had been seized from. This phone used a special military channel, so that calls made with it were more secure from surveillance; but Broom still felt the need to be circumspect in his conversation.

The man who picked up the phone at the diner must have been practically standing right on top of it.

“Walter Carlton speaking. I’m the owner and manager of the Emerald Diner. I’ve already closed the place down as the FBI requested and have been awaiting a phone call. I hope this is it.”

“This is Professor Trevor Broom, director of a special agency related to the FBI. We are sent in to investigate cases that, due to their unusual nature, conventional law enforcement has difficulty dealing with. We should be arriving soon. Please, do not be startled by some of the agents who will be with me. Their unique attributes and abilities are of supreme importance in cases like this.”

“Look, Mindy’s not just a waitress at my diner; she’s also my daughter. I don’t care who you bring, or what you do; just get her back from those horrible creatures.”

“I certainly understand how devastating this must be for you, Mr. Carlton. My agents and I will do everything we can to ensure your daughter’s safe return. Make sure your restaurant is cleared of all but the most necessary of personnel. It is always better that my more unique agents be seen by as few as possible. I hope you have left undisturbed any personal items your daughter or Professor Corrigan may have left behind at the table the moment they were seized. These items may be important in tracking them down.”

“As the FBI requested, I have left everything undisturbed. Outside of the agents who arrived earlier, there is no one here except me. I sent my other help home until further notice. But I really don’t see how those few items left at Professor Corrigan’s table can help you find them.”

“I assure you, I have an agent who should be able to use these items. He has not been working for me for very long, but has already proven more than capable. In addition, your daughter has already met my most experienced agent at a party where she tended bar. He is my chief field operator as well as my adopted son and I had arranged this party as a Halloween gift for him.”

“Yes, Professor, I do recall such a party. Even though I did not arrange the reservation, I am the special events manager for that restaurant. This is why Mindy was there that night; she often helps out at these parties. I recall the party being arranged and paid for by a ‘Frank Redford’ of Brooklyn and ‘Frank, Jr.’ being the guest of honor. However, certain stipulations set for the wait staff had given me the impression that those names may have been aliases. Mindy later told me how impressed she was with the costume your son wore and with the fact that he was only addressed as that character.”

“My son did enjoy that party very much, Mr. Carlton. For a variety of reasons, that are too manifold to go into at this time, I had never given him a party like this in the past and will probably never be able to do so again. Professor Corrigan is a very close friend of my son’s and was also attendant at that party. My son knows very few people outside of his colleagues in my agency, of which Professor Corrigan’s late father had worked as a consultant in my son’s youth. Even though he has said little to me on this matter, I believe my son is concerned that these creatures may have had some ulterior motive in their actions.”

“Are you suggesting that your son would hesitate going after these creatures out of fear that they may have seized my daughter and his friend as a trap for him?”

“If you knew my son as well as I do, Mr. Carlton, you would know his actions would be exactly the opposite of what you infer; nothing infuriates him more than when defenseless people are threatened. And if it is friends or acquaintances of his that are being threatened, that just makes him all the more determined; regardless of any danger to himself. I can assure you that my son and his colleagues will risk everything to rescue your daughter and Professor Corrigan.”

Trevor Broom turned aside from his phone conversation to address the agent driving him.

“Mr. Carlton,” he continued after he had done so, “I must bring this call to an end. We are approaching Washington Square Park and will soon turn onto West Fourth. I sometimes teach at NYU and am familiar with this area. I know that your restaurant is on the corner of Broadway and West Fourth, but the FBI has informed me that there is an employee-only rear entrance on Mercer Street. We will be utilizing this entrance when we arrive in just a few minutes.”

“Yes, Professor, the FBI has already secured all restaurant entrances and closed off that block of Mercer Street directly behind my diner. I have been informed that your most important vehicle will be a large truck; you should be able to bring that truck along Mercer to the rear entrance. I shall be most eagerly awaiting your arrival.”

Walter Carlton hung up his phone, both anxious for the safety of his daughter and curious as to what was going to occur when Trevor Broom and his ‘unique’ agents arrived. He was especially curious as to the reasons why giant rats would consider such extreme measures to make contact with Trevor Broom’s adopted son.

It had seemed obvious from Broom’s conversation that his adopted son was probably the most unique of his ‘unique’ agents. After what Walter Carlton recalled Mindy telling him of this son’s costume and demeanor at the party, he was even more curious to meet Trevor Broom’s adopted son for himself.

FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel were hindering curiosity seekers and news personnel from approaching too close to the Emerald Diner. These people watched from a distance as the agents allowed an unmarked black sedan make the turn from West Fourth on to Mercer Street; a large sanitation truck followed it. Other similar sedans parked on Broadway, at the main entrance to the diner, or along West Fourth at the side entrance.

Trevor Broom seldom ate at local restaurants when he taught classes at NYU, but used this diner on occasion for its excellent selection of imported Irish and English teas. No wonder Mindy had seemed familiar when he saw her picture.

Broom alighted from the sedan on Mercer Street and spoke with the FBI agent stationed at the rear entrance. He then walked through that entrance into an employee staff-room. As Broom entered, Walter Carlton, a reddish-haired man in a dark suit who appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties quickly approached him. Despite his English-sounding surname he definitely looked Irish.

“You must be Professor Broom,” he said as he shook Broom’s hand, “I myself seldom interact with the people who dine here; I usually leave that up to my daughter and my other wait staff. I recognize you, however, as one who sometimes comes here in the late afternoon for a cup of tea. I knew you were on the NYU faculty, but never would have pegged you as the director of a special agency related to the FBI. I pray that you and your agents will be able to find my daughter and Professor Corrigan.”

“We will do everything possible to track these creatures down,” Broom said as he returned Carlton’s handshake, “Can you point out to me which table Professor Corrigan was seated at when she and your daughter were taken away?”

Carlton led Broom into the deserted restaurant. Neither Broom nor Kate Corrigan had offered classes at NYU this semester. However, it was the third Monday in December and Broom knew the university was in the midst of final exams. It was now well past suppertime. Yet the diner should still be bustling with a large crowd of college students and other young adults, along with NYU faculty and other local diners looking for a snack or late supper. It was disconcerting to see it so empty.

They walked over toward some small tables next to the windows that faced out onto West Fourth.

“I had been paying little attention to what was going on in the restaurant; I was concentrating more on figuring out the take for the day up until suppertime. I never saw Professor Corrigan enter the diner. My daughter had worked an early shift today and was probably just finishing up when the professor arrived. Mindy had always been friendly with her and I assume that she went out of her way to wait on her before she left for the evening. Mindy must have gone into the employee staff-room afterwards and changed from her uniform.”

Carlton pointed out the table where Kate Corrigan had been sitting. Broom noted some scattered papers with Kate’s handwriting, some books she must have been consulting on vampirism in Hungary, and her favorite fountain pen. He saw her winter jacket hanging from a nearby hook. She must have finished eating, as there were few plates on the table and next to her books was a cup of coffee.

There was also a small purse on the opposite side of the table that Broom did not recognize as belonging to Kate. Next to this purse was another cup of coffee and a jacket was draped over the second chair that Broom also did not recognize.

“Mr. Carlton, do these other items belong to your daughter?”

“Yes, Professor, they do. Usually Mindy goes straight home to her apartment on Carmine Street when she is done working. However, this evening it seems she poured herself a cup of coffee and joined Professor Corrigan at her table. They were probably continuing a previous discussion on the origins of non-Gaelic Irish surnames; my own name of ‘Carlton’ is one of these.”

Broom looked closer at the table and then stooped down and looked underneath it. He saw Kate’s purse and leather satchel tucked under the chair where she had been seated. On the floor next to the chair where Mindy would have been seated he saw an open tube of lipstick. He touched nothing; standing up he addressed Walter Carlton.

“I have received all of the information that I could obtain from the police and the FBI agents who responded to your call. However, I would now like to hear what occurred from your point of view.”

Carlton gestured for Broom to sit down at a nearby clean table. He departed for a few minutes and returned with a tray containing a pot of freshly brewed Irish tea, milk, and two cups. He set this down and poured Broom and himself a cup of the steaming beverage.

They both drank tea while he continued; “It was around 6:30 in the evening. I had just counted out a bunch of bills and placed them into the safe hidden beneath the counter, when I heard a lot of screaming and could see people running around outside on West Fourth. A young girl ran into the restaurant through the West Fourth entrance shouting something about having seen giant black rats. She collapsed, sobbing onto one of the stools at the counter. Just as she did this, two huge rats jumped into the restaurant through that entrance. Before I could even react, these horrible creatures grabbed Mindy and some other woman and dragged them out of that door and down an open manhole on West Fourth. Later, I found out it had been that manhole those creatures had appeared from.”

Carlton took another sip of his tea. “I called the police, even though I felt quite the fool jabbering on about giant rats. I found out then that there had been other sightings of these rats, but they had only seized my daughter and this other woman. Fifteen minutes later the police, along with a group of FBI agents, turned up. For some reason they already seemed to know that the other women was Professor Corrigan. I was then asked to wait for a phone call. That’s as much as I know.”

Broom sighed, “I hate cases like this. I’m afraid I can make no guarantees of our success; but I can promise we will do everything possible to rescue your daughter and my NYU colleague. I wish now to bring in the agent that I would like to examine Kate’s table and the items left there.”

The news personnel and curiosity seekers, who were still hanging around trying to see something, watched as Broom exited out from the rear of the restaurant. Rather than returning to the black sedan he had issued from, he spoke into a communications device he held in his hand. After a few moments, the rear doors of the sanitation truck dropped down and they watched as he climbed in.

A few minutes later, they saw him come back out from the truck accompanied by a bearded man with dark glasses, dressed in a dark overcoat, and wearing a black fedora hat. As this man was also wearing dark gloves, he was completely covered with little skin showing; certainly over-dressed for the warmth of that evening. The two men then entered together into the rear entrance of the restaurant.

Walter Carlton was waiting by the table that he had shown to Broom earlier. He was standing and staring out the window onto the night-covered vista of West Fourth. He appeared not to be focused on anything, but was actually looking closely at the still-open manhole that was now surrounded by police and FBI agents. He turned away from the window as he heard Broom enter. It was then that he noticed the oddly dressed agent who accompanied him.

“I’m sorry, Professor Broom, but I can’t help worrying about what is happening to Mindy right now. All I keep thinking about is what those creatures may be doing to her.”

As Walter Carlton spoke, the man who had accompanied Professor Broom stepped forward and spoke before Broom had a chance to either reply to the comment or introduce him to Carlton.

“Your daughter and Professor Corrigan are frightened and confused, however they are essentially unharmed at this point in time.” His voice was oddly muffled, as if the beard he wore was false.

Carlton stared at Broom’s mysterious companion. “How do you know this? Do you already have an idea of where they are being held?”

The man pulled out from his pocket the picture the BPRD had been given of Mindy. “I can often sense these kinds of things from pictures of people or objects they may have touched. Unfortunately, this picture is not enough for me to get more than a vague sense of the essential well being of Mindy and Kate Corrigan. That is why I wish to examine the belongings they were in close contact with when the rats seized them. I am hoping to get a clearer picture of what happened after they left here.”

Broom smiled slightly, “Mr. Carlton, I would like to introduce you to Abraham Sapien, the latest addition to the group of field operators who work directly with my son. The best thing we can do right now is to let him examine the table and its contents.”

The man introduced as Abraham held out his gloved right hand to Walter Carlton to be shaken. “Please, call me Abe, Mr. Carlton. I wish we could have met under better circumstances.” He then turned to Trevor Broom. “Would it be possible, Professor, for me to get out of this disguise you buried me under? I’m absolutely suffocating.”

Broom looked over at Carlton, “I always prefer my agents to be as comfortable as possible. I should make you leave the room before Abe removes his disguise, but I would like you to stay if you wish. The organization I direct is called the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. We deal with and work with very unusual beings. As most of what the BPRD does is classified, you must never divulge to any other person what you witness of the workings of my organization.”

Carlton nervously rubbed his hands together, “I would like to stay, Professor. I’m just too eager to find out anything about my daughter to want to leave. I know how to keep a secret.”

Broom smiled at him, “It would be best to pull all the blinds down over the windows. Even though the agents outside are doing an admirable job of keeping the media and curious crowds away, it would be best to be as careful as possible. This investigation may take Abe some time. Maybe another pot of tea would be calming for all of us. Bring a third cup; Abe might like some tea himself.”

Some of the blinds had already been pulled down earlier to block the glare from the setting sun. Carlton went around the diner and completely pulled down all the rest of the window blinds. He then went and fetched another tray of tea as Broom had requested.

By the time Carlton returned, Abe had divested himself of that overly warm disguise and was already closely examining all of the items on or underneath the table. He had been stooping down and looking under the table as he heard Carlton returning, but stood up to address him.

As Carlton set the tray of tea down on the table where Broom was waiting, it was hard not to stare at the slender blue-gray fish-man in his tight-fitting black shorts and shirt. Rather than taking offense at Carlton’s obvious disconcertment at his appearance, Abe smiled at him.

“My investigation is going well, Mr. Carlton. I’m already starting to get a clearer picture of what happened after they left here. I have high hopes that some of these items may give me a general idea of where they might have been taken.” Abe returned to his work.

Even though Abe’s smile and obvious concern for his anxiety did much to reassure Carlton, he was still very nervous as to Abe’s nature. He sat down at the table with Broom, who was already helping himself to a cup of tea.

“I’m sorry, Professor; I know you said Abe would be unusual, but I never expected a thing as weird as this creature. Where did it come from?”

Broom held up a warning hand, “Mr. Carlton, I prefer that my more unique agents not be referred to as ‘creatures’ or ‘things’. ‘He’, not ‘it’, is the only known example of the species Icthyo Sapien.”

Smiling, he took another sip of his tea. “I understand your confusion, Mr. Carlton, at suddenly being confronted by such a unique being. He originally came to me because the federal government wished the BPRD to inquire into the nature of an interesting specimen found quite by accident in a secret laboratory in St. Trinian’s Hospital in Washington. However, once Abe was awakened to consciousness, it became clear to me he was much more than the aberration of nature some considered him. Abe started working for my organization just about a month ago and, outside of my own adopted son, I have never met a more generous-hearted or loyal being. He has become much more to me than a mere agent of my organization and has already become fast friends with my son.”

Blushing slightly, Carlton took a drink of his tea to cover his discomfiture. Putting the cup down he smiled back at Broom. “Since he arrived, Abe has been nothing except sensitive to my worry over my daughter. I’ve always considered myself a tolerant individual; it takes something like this to expose one’s unexamined xenophobic tendencies. I apologize to both of you for my thoughtless remarks.”

“There is no need to apologize,” Abe said, walking over to the table and pouring himself a cup of tea, “I understand from my own experience how frightening it can be to suddenly be confronted with beings completely alien to yourself. I have also learned how beneficial it is to be open to learning from those who are different. I will never be sorry that I chose to trust Professor Broom and his son.”

Drawing up a chair from another table, Abe sat down to drink his tea. After a few moments of silence, he told Broom and Carlton what he had discovered thus far.

“I’m getting the strongest impressions from the lipstick that was next to Mindy’s chair and from Professor Corrigan’s fountain pen. They both seem to have been holding these items and dropped them as the rats grabbed them. If what I suspect is true, that Mindy had been caught in the act of reapplying her lipstick and the Professor still has spots on her hands from the ink in the pen, there is a very strong connection between these two items and the women’s current location. I am inclined to think they are being held somewhere north of here.”

Getting back up from his chair, Abe fetched the lipstick he had been examining. “I’m getting the clearest picture in my mind from this item, Professor. However, I just don’t know enough about New York City yet to completely recognize what I am seeing when I touch it.” He held out his right hand, the lipstick on his palm. Trevor Broom placed his own right hand over this and closed his eyes.

After a few moments, Broom opened his eyes again. “What you are seeing is the old gatehouse at Convent Avenue and 135th Street. It is an architectural oddity that was constructed in the 1880’s to service the New Croton Aqueduct. Although it looks like a small castle with a tower, it is really nothing more than a hollow stone shed. The structure is practically derelict and would be an excellent hideout for these creatures. It could be entered into from below by clambering through the tunnels and piping that still connect the unused Old Croton Aqueduct to the newer waterworks system.”

Sitting back down in his chair, Abe digested all of this information. “Yes, Professor, that makes some sense out of what I have been picking up. However, my gut feeling is that they are not inside this structure itself, but are somewhere nearby. I would like you to obtain, if possible, detailed schematics of the waterworks in New York City, ones that show the connections between the old and current systems and can be correlated to a detailed Manhattan street map. I am hoping, by looking at these, to pinpoint more closely where Mindy and Professor Corrigan may be located. If we move closer to the location of that gatehouse in Harlem these impressions may get even stronger.”

Frowning slightly, Walter Carlton stood up from the table and started to pace. “How certain are you that these impressions are accurate? You may end up going on some wild goose chase.”

Broom shrugged, “It’s the only real lead we have right now, Mr. Carlton. In the brief time that Abe has been working for me, I have learned to trust implicitly in his ability to gather impressions from objects and from the minds of others. Just before Thanksgiving, my son chose to ignore one of Abe’s impressions and almost lost his life—as well as badly injuring Abe. He swore never to make that mistake again. If Abe thinks that obtaining maps and schematics and moving closer to this gatehouse in Harlem will help him pinpoint their location more clearly, then this is what we will do.”

Moving back to the table where Broom and Abe were still seated, Carlton collapsed down into the chair he had been sitting in. “You’re right, Professor, the only thing I can do is put my trust in Abe.”

He poured himself another cup of tea, “I don’t know if this means anything, Professor; but all of this talk about the Old and New Croton Aqueducts reminds me of something. You recall that the restaurant where you had the Halloween party was on Amsterdam Avenue near Cathedral Parkway? Well, the water tunnel for the Old Croton Aqueduct practically runs underneath the restaurant.”

“Damn!” Broom suddenly exclaimed, “If I recall correctly, the NYPL research library is located at the former site of one of that system’s reservoirs; all of the infrastructure of that ancient waterworks is still below the library building. My son was at both locations the night of that party. I’m convinced that these giant rats we’re dealing with are not real animals, but demons of some sort. However, they are probably demons with plenty of little minions—the kind of little minions that could easily creep through alleys, streets, and tunnels. I’m afraid he was followed that night.”

Getting up from his seat, Walter Carlton again went to look out the window at the still-guarded open manhole on West Fourth.

Broom turned toward Abe, “I’m starting to detect a grim pattern here. Not many weeks after the party, we were called in to quell that demon in Massachusetts. I’m beginning to wonder if my son wasn’t correct in his assumption that this demon was too large for a group of students with a mere ouija board to conjure up. You both almost died in that operation. Now we’ve got rat-like demons threatening people he would care about; something guaranteed to bring him out into the open again.”

Walking over to Carlton, Broom placed a hand on his shoulder; “That Halloween party was completely my own idea. Please don’t blame my son for any of this. I take full responsibility for this fiasco.”

To Broom’s surprise, Carlton turned to him and smiled. “It’s obvious that you care for your son as much as I care for Mindy. I can’t blame you for wanting to show him a good time. Let’s get the hell out of here and figure out what you guys can do for Mindy and Professor Corrigan.”

More to come…

Author’s Afterword: In older to clear my head while I was thinking about this story, I wrote and posted a Hellboy fic entitled Family Portrait. That fic really is intimately tied up with themes from this chapter of Hellboy’s Family, as well as with Chapter Four. If you haven’t read Family Portrait you might want to; it shows how I envision Hellboy’s future from the point of view of the past as shown in Hellboy’s Family.

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