Author’s notes: This follows after Part Twenty-Two. However, it makes connections to Part Twenty. It won’t make sense if you’ve haven’t at least read all the parts after Part Sixteen. I will try to keep my information about the Old Croton Aqueduct in Harlem at least plausible if not completely accurate.

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

Hellboy and Trevor Broom walked out of the restaurant dining room into the staff-room where the rear entrance was located. Walter Carlton then noted that Hellboy had left behind the cloak he had been wearing when he first entered. Carlton grabbed up the cloak and followed them into the staff-room. Broom had already departed but Hellboy had turned back to retrieve what he had left behind.

“Thanks, Carlton,” Hellboy said as it was silently handed to him. Hellboy threw the cloak on, covering himself in the same way as when Carlton had first seen him. Just as Hellboy again turned toward the rear entrance to depart, Carlton touched his shoulder to stop him.

“Red, I know you said I should pray instead of wishing you luck. Believe me, I will be praying hard—harder than I ever have before. But let me wish you all the luck in the world, anyway. Not just in saving my daughter and your friend, but in every other aspect of your life as well. You deserve a whole lot more than you think you do.”

“As they say, ‘From your mouth to God’s ears’,” Hellboy replied as he readjusted his cloak, “Never had much good luck in my life, except for such a great guy wanting to be my father. But I can’t even have a woman show interest in me as a man, for Jesus Christ, without my bad luck rubbing off on her.”

Without waiting for a reply, Hellboy turned and strode out through the rear entrance.

To Abe it seemed like hours and hours of just driving around Harlem, consulting maps and schematics, trying to sense the exact location of Mindy Carlton and Kate Corrigan. To Hellboy, who hadn’t had much to do except wait for Abe to come up with something, it seemed more like centuries.

Hellboy couldn’t even enjoy the brand-new, equipment-filled garbage truck Lee had just given him. As he disconsolately slumped down in his seat, Abe came and knelt beside him.

“I am absolutely certain we will find them eventually, Red. It’s just a matter of pinpointing their location even more clearly. I know we’re close—very, very close. But what I’m receiving from the pen and lipstick I picked up in the restaurant is just not enough. Do you have anything else with you that once belonged to Kate Corrigan?”

Searching through the pouches of his utility belt, Hellboy eventually drew out a crumpled, once-blue hair ribbon. He gazed at it pensively before handing it to Abe. Closing the nictitating membranes over his eyes, Abe concentrated on any feeling or picture he could get from the ribbon. Slowly he began to make something out.

Eight-year-old Katie Corrigan ventured into Trevor Broom’s hospital room. Wearing a white blouse and blue skirt, her dark-blond hair was tied with blue ribbons into pigtails. Seeing fourteen-year-old Hellboy asleep in a chair by his dangerously ill father’s side, Katie pushed her way past the attendant nurse who objected to her intrusion into the room of an unconscious man.

Awakened by Katie’s entrance, Hellboy held his arms out to her and she threw herself into them, sobbing out her grief at her own father’s recent death. Drawing her up into his lap, he held her close until she fell asleep, exhausted from weeping. Her once neatly tied hair straggled out of the ribbons.

Refusing to let the nurse take Katie from him, Hellboy eventually untied the pigtails of the sleeping girl with his left hand and gently straightened her hair. Stuffing the ribbons into a shirt pocket, he fell back asleep with Katie in his arms. A nurse later awakened them for breakfast and helped Katie re-do her hair. After Katie’s mother came to take her home that afternoon, Hellboy found another pair of blue ribbons Katie had left behind in the Medical Wing chapel where they had been praying together.

Over subsequent years, Kate Corrigan always managed to keep up an intermittent correspondence with a ‘Frank Redford’ of Brooklyn and his son. Even so, Hellboy never saw Kate again until she was nineteen years old and was one of Trevor Broom’s students at NYU; but he had always kept these ribbons close by him as mementos of his ‘little sister’.

Abe handed the ribbon back to Hellboy, who now had the other ribbon of the pair in his hand. “Unfortunately, Red, no matter how touching, these memories don’t help me much. Do you have anything that would be more recent?”

Hellboy stuffed the two old hair ribbons back into the pouch they had come out of. Reaching into an inside pocket of his coat, Hellboy pulled out a small booklet. “Father gave me this a few years back. It’s not exactly something that belonged to Katie, but she wrote me something in it.”

Abe took the booklet, entitled Field Guide to Demons and Demonic Animals. It had been inscribed to Hellboy both by Trevor Broom and Kate Corrigan, who had written this newer edition of a work originally written by her father, Richard Corrigan.

Hellboy grabbed Abe’s arm just as he again closed his eyes to concentrate on trying to get a clear impression of Kate and Mindy’s current location. “You’ve got to find them, Blue; you just have to. Don’t know what I’ll do if anything happens to either one of them.”

Hellboy stopped and swallowed before going on, “Sometimes, it’s like it was just yesterday when Katie was a little girl with ribbons in her hair.” He pulled the ribbons out again and gently ran them through the fingers of his left hand.

“But she’s not a little girl anymore.” Again falling silent, Hellboy looked at the once bright-blue ribbons lying in his hand; they looked even more faded against the red of his palm.

“I think I’m in love with her,” he finally added, almost in a whisper.

This revelation was not totally unexpected. Several months earlier, Abe had been playing a childish game of reading people’s minds without permission. Hellboy had made it more than abundantly clear that he found this intrusion into his private thoughts infuriating. But Abe had managed to pick up some interesting indications of Hellboy’s feelings for Kate Corrigan before Trevor Broom made him realize that he would soon alienate everybody around him through this invasion of their privacy.

Now, during this time of crisis, Abe desperately wanted to say something reassuring, but this was a topic he felt would be much better dealt with by Trevor Broom. Abe wished Broom were there with them in the truck, feeling inadequate to offer Hellboy the comfort he so obviously needed.

He was also beginning to feel inadequate to the task of locating Kate Corrigan and Mindy Carlton. Wearily closing his eyes, he again concentrated on what was coming to him from the booklet.

While he was doing this, Hellboy sank back down into his seat. After a few moments he took the ribbons and wound them together with his left hand. He then cumbrously entwined them around his left wrist using his unwieldy right hand, in much the same way as he had once done with Trevor Broom’s rosary when Broom had been hospitalized with cancer in 1959; it was then, at what was the worst time in both their young lives, that he had first met Kate Corrigan.

As Hellboy sat fidgeting with the ribbons wrapped around his wrist, he kept trying to remind himself that ‘his Katie’ was no longer a young girl. Now a grown woman, Kate Corrigan in recent years had shown herself more than capable of dealing with any number of weird creatures in her field research on vampirism. Hellboy himself had taught her much that she knew about self-defense.

Still, Hellboy couldn’t help feeling almost panicked that he had no idea where Kate was or how she was faring. Both of them had been so alone when they first met. In 1959, Hellboy already had some strong connections to friends and colleagues. Yet none of these men and women, no matter how well intentioned, could ever be there for him in the way Trevor Broom had been. Struggling to be there for Hellboy as much as he could during his long hospitalization, Broom still found it hard to always offer his adopted son the comfort and support he needed during that troubling time.

And Katie had been even worse off than Hellboy. She was a young girl mainly left on her own in the medical wing of a unique facility filled with strange people and at least one strange creature; a girl whose mother seemed incapable of dealing with Katie’s emotional needs at the same time she was dealing with her own fears over her husband’s eventually terminal illness.

Regularly fighting against the Nazis in Argentina from around age ten until their final defeat in 1958, Hellboy, at fourteen years of age, had already been close to seven feet tall. But he had been raised in a socially isolated environment; regardless of his maturing experiences in Argentina, Hellboy had not really been much beyond the younger Katie in terms of his social and emotional development. It was not surprising that they had turned to each other for support and friendship—a friendship that was turning into something very different now that Kate Corrigan was in her late twenties.

Finding these memories both comforting and troubling at the same time, Hellboy became even more restless waiting for Abe to come up with anything the least bit useful. He got up from his seat and paced around the less cluttered rear section of the truck. After doing this for a while, he again flopped back down into his seat. He went through this repetitive cycle of nervous activity over and over.

Abe finally threw the book on to the floor, “Damn it, you big red monkey! I cannot concentrate with this infernal pacing!”

“Concentrate! Concentrate on what?” Hellboy shouted, stopping his restless meanderings to face Abe, “I can’t see that this damn psychic hocus-pocus of yours is getting us anywhere. How do we even know that Kate and Mindy are anywhere near this area of Harlem? I know Pop wants me to trust this so-called gift of yours, but I’m just sitting here doing nothing while people I care about are in danger.”

Striding over to where Abe was standing, Hellboy snatched up his book from where it had been tossed and examined it closely. “The cover; I can’t believe you bent the cover, fish face.” Hellboy collapsed down in his seat and tried in vain to smooth out the dent in the front cover of the softbound book.

Starting to develop a headache, Abe collapsed into his own seat in the truck. “Do you have a better idea of how we should be going about this? I’m open to any of your brilliant suggestions.” Immediately regretting his sarcastic tone, Abe looked over at Hellboy, “I’m sorry about the book, Red. I know that it means a lot to you.”

Hellboy sighed, his anger fading back into his earlier anxiety. “Pretty good book, really. I’ve actually used it a couple of times. Katie added a lot of new stuff to her father’s original book, but it’s got diddlysquat about giant rats. That’s a new one on me.”

Suddenly the pain in Abe’s head increased exponentially. “I think I’m going to faint,” he groaned.

Hellboy did not like the way Abe looked. His face had become so pale as to look more like the faded blue ribbons Hellboy had wrapped around his wrist than Abe’s usual blue-green complexion.

“Jesus, Abe, drop your head between your knees if you think you’re going to keel over.”

Jumping up from his seat, Hellboy attempted to catch Abe, but he didn’t make it. Feeling somewhat helpless, he dropped down beside the fish-man who was now writhing in pain on the floor of the truck, throwing up everything in his stomach. The truck, which was still slowly cruising around the section of Harlem centering on 135th and Amsterdam, hit a bump causing Abe an even more exquisite pain.

“Get them to stop the truck,” he managed to grunt out before getting hit by the dry heaves that came because he had nothing left to throw up.

Hellboy fumbled for the walkie-talkie attached to his belt. “Stop the damn truck. Stop it right now!”

The garbage truck rumbled to a halt. “Son, we’ve been past this location many times before without any sign from Abe that he sensed anything. Is something wrong?” Trevor Broom radioed from the sedan he had been following the truck in.

“Damn right, something’s wrong, Pop,” Hellboy radioed back, “First Abe practically fainted, then he started upchucking all over the place right before he asked to have the truck stopped. Have no idea what’s up except he looks awful. Maybe he’s been trying too hard or something.”

Abe’s body finally stopped trying to vomit up nothing but air and he weakly rolled over into a sitting position on the floor. “Help me into my tank, Red. I feel like I need to be in water for a while.”

Son,” came Broom’s voice, “I’m coming into the truck to check on Abe. He should be put in his tank. He may have been out of water too long today on top of being worked very hard.”

“He’s already asked me to get him into it,” Hellboy replied as he began to help Abe up from the floor. “I’m just putting him in it now.”

“Good. I’ll be there in just a minute.”

By the time the rear doors dropped down and Broom climbed in, Abe was in the tank installed in the new truck for his use. He was already looking a lot better. This tank was much smaller than his aquarium in Broom’s office, so Abe could hear most of what the people outside of it were speaking. But since it had not yet had speakers installed he could not speak to them while in the tank.

“What exactly happened here, Son?”

“Don’t know much more than I told you before.” Hellboy hesitated slightly before going on in a rush; “Me and Abe, we kind’ve had a bit of a run-in right before it happened. Nothing major, mind you. Just think we were both a bit stressed out. Certainly not enough to cause all this,” Hellboy gestured at the mess on the floor, “But I did say some stupid things and I’m really sorry.”

Hellboy and Broom both turned toward Abe when they heard a knock on the glass wall of the tank. ((I am just as much at fault as Red, Professor,)) he gestured in the sign language he was first taught to communicate in. ((We both mistook frustration with the situation as frustration with each other. There is nothing to forgive.))

Noting that Abe looked a lot less like death warmed over, Hellboy walked closer. “Hey, Blue, you forgive me, I forgive you; isn’t that what brothers do? At least you look better. How do you feel?”

((Almost as if nothing had happened. I was beginning to feel somewhat weary at the time, but that headache was totally unexpected. At first it was so slight, I merely thought it was a tension head…)) Stopping in mid-sign, Abe grasped his head in both hands, silently gasping in pain and swallowing what felt to him like an ocean full of water in the process.

Abe shot to the surface of the water, pushed open the top of the tank and tumbled out. Falling to the floor before either Broom or Hellboy could get close enough to catch him, Abe lay there retching up the water he had just swallowed and writhing in the grips of an even worse headache.

Feeling helpless again, Hellboy watched as Trevor Broom rushed to assist Abe.

“Where are we, Professor?” Abe managed to croak out as Broom tried to help him up from the floor.

“Near 145th and Saint Nicholas.” Broom looked up at Hellboy, “Son, remember that hole-in-the-wall fish-fry place I used to bring you fish and chips from when I taught some classes at the CUNY Graduate Center? We’re parked on Saint Nicholas in front of that.”

“Fish-fry place? Ugh, how disgusting,” groaned Abe, who gagged and retched up some more water, just missing Broom’s leather shoes.

This reminder of the best fried-fish in the city made Hellboy realize he was famished. It was probably after midnight by then and he hadn’t eaten anything since lunch. He was just wondering if there was any food to be had in the truck, when Abe suddenly stood and grabbed a hold of Broom by his jacket.

“145th and Saint Nicholas!” Abe unexpectedly shouted in a voice hoarse from his bouts of vomiting, “That’s it! That’s the place! Red and I need to get out and look for a white cat with blue eyes. It can lead us to the thing we need. But we must go now!”

Thinking Abe was merely delirious, Broom tried to get him to sit in his seat again. Seeming almost frantic, Abe seized Broom by his wool vest, practically lifting his feet off the floor. “We need to get out of this truck right here, right now! We can’t wait or the cat will be gone.”

Hellboy hurried over and rescued Broom from Abe’s surprisingly strong grip. “Hey, Blue, I’d rather you not rip Pop to shreds. Calm down for a second.” He forced Abe down into his seat.

Hellboy recognized the appraising look that Broom gave Abe. “Hmmm,” Broom said after a moment’s consideration, “Maybe these headaches are more than they appear. But are you up to going out, Abe? These physical manifestations you are receiving are pretty extreme.”

Abe stood and stretched his lean body, again looking more himself. “Professor, please accept my apologies; I do not know what possessed me to seize you in that manner. I believe the longer I wait to follow this impression the more severe these physical manifestations will become.”

A few minutes later, under the supervision of some of the BPRD agents from the FBI, Abe and Hellboy were standing in front of the now closed fried-fish restaurant. The street was mostly deserted at that time of night, but 145th Street being a major subway stop guaranteed a certain bustle of activity regardless of the lateness of the hour. But this was Harlem; people who noticed the odd looking characters surrounded by what were obviously law-enforcement types were not about to interfere.

Having never been to that area of the city before, Hellboy still recognized it from Broom’s description. He pointed out to Abe the spotlighted Gothic towers of the CUNY Graduate Center to the south. “Looks a little out of place in this neighborhood, don’t it. And I remember Pop telling me that this fish-fry place doesn’t even really have a name; people just call it ‘the fish-fry’. He said the inside of this dinky place is about the size and shape of a bathroom, or ‘lavatory’ as he called it.”

While Hellboy chattered, more out of nerves than any need to give Abe information, Abe crouched down and examined the pavement in front of the tiny fish restaurant. He had a very strong sense that he was almost in the right place, but not quite. Standing again, he looked south along Saint Nicholas toward the CUNY Graduate Center campus on Convent Ave. Almost as if in a trance, Abe began to cross to the west side of Saint Nicholas. Hellboy and the other agents moved after him as he got to the other side and walked south.

Just as they walked past a rather dull building with a sign announcing it as The Harlem School of the Arts, Abe stopped and examined the pavement again. As Hellboy walked up beside him, tiny little claws suddenly grabbed Hellboy’s tail from behind. Swinging around, he saw a little streak of white dance back into the darkened entrance of the school. Hellboy tapped Abe’s shoulder, “I think I’ve found the cat, or at least it found me.”

He then slowly walked toward the entrance, peering into the darkness. The dirty white cat, not quite full grown, pounced out at him again; this time it held some shiny metal object in its mouth, which it dropped at Hellboy’s feet and disappeared into the darkness again. Puzzled by the cat’s odd behavior, Hellboy bent over and picked up the object, which despite the poor lighting he recognized right away.

“Look at this, Abe,” Hellboy said as Abe walked up to him, “It’s the hair clasp I brought back for Kate from a 1971 field operation in Madagascar. She must have let her hair grow out again while she was in Hungary; she always wears this when her hair gets long.”

Abe took the now scratched and dented, but still beautiful, silver clasp in his hand and closed his eyes. He suddenly opened his eyes again and walked further south along Saint Nicholas until the dark mass of Saint Nicholas Park loomed ahead with the towers of the CUNY campus to the west.

“Well, Red, do you want to guess what park was constructed from land condemned during the construction of the Old Croton Aqueduct? I’ve a much better idea of where they are now. There’s a map back in the truck of all sorts of abandoned chambers and whatnot related to that aqueduct that are down below the surface of that park. Let’s get back and have a look at it.”

More to come...

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