HELLBOY'S FAMILY

Author’s note: In order to best understand this, please read all of the previous parts of Chapter Six if you haven’t already done so.

Disclaimer: Main characters not mine, but Walt, Mindy, and Mindy’s son, Trevor, belong to me. Some of what I have written is based on my loose adaptation of a flashback of Liz’s first meeting with H.B. that is narrated in Mike Mignola’s Hellboy spin-off: B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth. The agents, who are merely functional to my plot in this chapter, derive from this; but I have placed my own spin on them.

Chapter Six: Liz Sherman

Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and Love

Interlude

December 22-23, 1986

Right in the middle of a late-night re-broadcast of his favorite episode of Hawaii Five-O, Hellboy was irritated by the arrival of fish-man Abe Sapien to inform him that Trevor Broom needed to see him in his office immediately. At first considering taking the time to slap a tape into one of his VHS machines to catch the rest of the episode, Hellboy decided to forget it and went to find out why he was needed.

Two hours later, a disgruntled demon found himself on one of the Bureau’s converted military cargo planes departing from Newark to the BPRD adjunct facility in Chicago, Illinois. He had no information as to why he was bound for the ‘Windy City’. All he knew was that Trevor Broom was unavailable to accompany him due to an unexpected ‘personal emergency’ that was going to take him to his home country of England; and no one knew how soon he was expected to return.

Hellboy tried vainly to convince himself that he was upset because he missed hearing Jack Lord’s ‘Steve McGarret’ character intone his traditional “Book ’em, Danno” at the end of the program he had been watching; but he knew this was not the real reason for his current dissatisfaction.

By the time Hellboy would be arriving to the Chicago facility, it would be his forty-second birthday. Not only would Trevor Broom be missing this, he would probably be away past Christmas as well. Hellboy was more upset by this than he cared to admit. The only time they had not been together in late December had been for Hellboy’s twelfth birthday, when Hellboy had been in Argentina fighting the Nazis; and unable to make it back home to Boston until the end of the year.

It must have been something very important to draw Trevor Broom out of his adopted country at such a personally significant time. Hellboy understood this; but it didn’t make him feel any better about it.


Outside of his immediate circle of family and close friends, Hellboy seldom reminded others of the day of his odd ‘birth’. When he finally arrived to the secret location in Chicago where the Bureau maintained a mid-Western field office, no one there was quite sure what he was so ticked off about.

Puffing away on a stubby cigar clenched tightly in his teeth, Hellboy peered through the two-way mirror at a girl; one who had the saddest-looking brown eyes he had ever seen. She was locked away in a tiny, sterile-white room that had obviously been fireproofed. Seated on a kind of hospital bed, she just sat there staring at her own feet; which Hellboy noted barely touched the floor.

After a few long moments of observation, he swung around toward FBI Agent Clayton Reilly.

“Look, Clete, I don’t get what’s going on here. First, you drag me out of my nice warm bed to come all the way to Chicago; then you tell me that we’re dealing with the biggest threat to national security since the atomic bomb,” Hellboy took another drag on his cigar, “Have to admit, you’ve got me completely baffled. What’s this got to do with that girl you’ve got locked up in there?”

‘Clete’ Reilly fished around in the pockets of a black jacket that just screamed ‘Feds’ and, bringing out a filtered cigarette, lit it and smoked for a while before replying, “The girl’s the problem, Hellboy.”

Dropping the butt of his cigar to the scientific research facility’s cement floor, Hellboy ground it out with one booted cloven hoof before looking even more closely at the girl. “What in the hell kind of security risk can she be, Clete?” he grumbled, “She’s just a little kid.”

Clete took another slow puff on his cigarette, “Hellboy, this past Saturday, the ‘little kid’ in that room was the sole survivor of an unexplained firestorm that obliterated an apartment-complex courtyard before burning down an entire block of buildings in one of the seedier areas of downtown Detroit.”

Hellboy shrugged, “The kid was lucky; so what?”

Shaking his head, Clete looked a little less like he was researching an interesting specimen and more like he felt sorry for the girl he held in custody. “Thirty-six people died in that fire on Saturday; including her own parents. This girl, full name Elizabeth Anne Sherman, was found unconscious in the apartment courtyard that had been the nucleus of the explosion. The bodies of several other children, most charred beyond recognition, were found near her in the crater that used to be the courtyard.”

As Clete spoke, the girl seated on the bed turned her head toward the mirror in the room, almost as if she knew that she was being observed. Hellboy now noticed a small white bandage on her forehead.

Clete pointed at the girl with his cigarette. “That tiny bandage on her forehead covers the only wound on her entire body. Examining physicians think that being struck by a small rock or other hard object caused the injury. While it is possible that it was caused by debris from the explosion, other evidence suggests that she was injured just before the explosion occurred. What we can’t figure out, Hellboy, is why she wasn’t burnt to a cinder like the others; rather than ending up with just a few stitches.”

Just as Clete was finished speaking, another agent, completely covered in a self-contained fire-suit, entered carrying a tray of food. The agent, with his face-plated head covering and the tank strapped to his back, looked to Hellboy like some extra from an old sci-fi movie. He noticed Hellboy and Clete, but spoke no word as he nervously pulled open the thick fireproof door to Elizabeth Sherman’s room.

Hellboy couldn’t help thinking that the agent bearing the tray acted like a sheep going to slaughter. As he apprehensively entered the room, the girl stood up from the bed and started towards him—which action caused the tray-bearing spaceman to fearfully freeze in place.

“Please, why won’t you talk to me?” Hellboy heard her say quietly, “They say I did something bad. They say I burned lots of people to death, but I don’t remember doing it. Now, no one will talk to me. Why won’t anyone talk to me?” She gradually moved even closer to the petrified fire-suited agent, who still held her food tray. “Why are you so scared? I can’t burn you just by talking, can I?”

As she spoke, she reached out her hand. The panicked agent dropped the tray, scattering chicken, white bread, and a little carton of milk; and dashed out of the room as if his life depended on it.

“You get to bring in her next meal,” the suited agent said to Clete; before he walked out of the area as quickly as he could without appearing to Hellboy as if he was running away.

Digging around in the pouches of his belt, Hellboy pulled out what looked to Clete like an already partially smoked cigar and lit it with one of his ubiquitous Zippos. Clete had met Hellboy several times in the past on other Western and mid-Western centered missions. He never recalled having seen the cigar-smoking demon with anything that looked even close to a full-length, brand-new cigar.

Hellboy turned toward Clete. “You guys think the girl’s an uncontrolled pyrokinetic, don’t you?”

“We’re definitely considering the idea,” Clete said, as he lit another cigarette, “As of yet, we haven’t been able to pinpoint where she’s getting the power from; but pyrokinesis is the only explanation that fits all of the facts. We have been working overtime to collect information on her. She’s an only child, usually called Liz or Lizzie. The parents divorced several years ago. But when they had been married, they moved around a lot. Ostensibly, this was because of the father’s job; but we have discovered rumors of small, unexplained fires in other cities where they lived. The father did not live in Detroit, but was with the mother on the day of the fire because it had been the girl’s birthday the day before.”

Smoking in silence for a few minutes, Hellboy digested this information. He then moved closer to the two-way mirror and observed that the food and tray were still on the floor. ‘Lizzie’, having moved back to sitting on the bed, was now clutching the pillow to herself and quietly sobbing into it.

Hellboy liked to think of himself as cynical and unsentimental; having been, in his own estimation, completely hardened by decades of dealing with inhuman Nazis, mad scientists, monstrous demons, and other paranormal interlopers. Yet, nothing turned him into mush faster than watching a child cry. He was no more immune to this heart-rending scene than he had been at age fourteen, when he comforted a grieving eight-year-old Katie Corrigan after the death of her father.

Making his slow way past various machines, computers, and other research paraphernalia, he came to the door into the girl’s room. Grinding out his cigar against its fireproof exterior, Hellboy reached down and turned the knob to pull open the door.

Clete, who had been busy examining readouts on several of the machines, gradually came to notice what Hellboy was doing. “Hey, you can’t go in there,” he objected, “You’re just here for a consultation and don’t have clearance for contact. Anyways, you’ve got to have a fire-suit to enter.”

Turning away from the already partially opened door, Hellboy looked over his shoulder at Clete.

“Me need a fire-suit?” he grunted, “You’re kidding, right?”

Attempting to school his naturally rather grim features into something non-threatening looking, Hellboy smiled as he slowly pushed open the door. “Knock, knock, Lizzie; mind if I come in?”

If ‘Lizzie’ Sherman was frightened by the unexpected advent of a bright red, seven-foot-tall demon, she didn’t show it. She merely peered over the top of the pillow she was hugging to herself; eyes still filled with as-of-yet unshed tears.

“You talked to me,” she whispered, after a long pregnant moment of silence.

“Shouldn’t I?” Hellboy said, as he came and sat at the foot of her bed.

One lone tear slid down a thin, pale cheek. “Aren’t you afraid that I’ll burn you?”

“Nope,” said Hellboy with a broader smile, as he handed ‘Lizzie’ a Baby Ruth candy bar that he had just pulled out from one of the pouches of his belt.

Part Five

All Hellboy had wanted was to escape the negative emotions provoked by the rude behavior of the waitresses at the anniversary party. What he had ended up with was a memory of his first meeting with ‘his Lizzie’ which had been so all absorbing as to almost feel like he had been reliving it.

When his awareness finally returned to the present, he found himself seated on a weather-beaten bench in a Broadway bus shelter near Cathedral Parkway. He didn’t even know how long he had been sitting there; only just barely recalling how his unexpected arrival had startled late-night commuters, who had nervously shifted several blocks along Broadway to the next stop on the line.

Along with this restored awareness, came the memory of why he was sitting there in the first place. Even though Hellboy had never been happier since his marriage to Liz, he again found himself plagued by an uncertainty he thought he had banished long ago. He loved Liz with every fiber of his being; but was she truly better off with him rather than with John Myers or some other ‘normal’ human male?

“Why don’t you move over so someone else can sit down?” Hellboy turned to find that Liz was now standing under the aluminum and acrylic shelter that his bench was a part of. Looking up into her gently smiling face, he could see in her dark-brown eyes all that was in her heart and knew that she loved him as much as he loved her. Once more, he chased away those troublesome self-doubts.

“Believe me, you wouldn’t want to sit here in that pretty frock of yours,” he said with a chuckle as he gathered his wife of ten years into his lap; trying as much as possible not to let her ivory dress come into contact with the urban grime that could be found on even the most well-tended of public benches.

The night air was chilly, but the sky was very clear. Curling up into the warmth of Hellboy’s embrace, Liz laid her head on his chest; reminded of their first moments alone after their wedding reception, when they had climbed up to the BPRD entranceway roof to admire the beauty of an almost full moon. That night had also been chilly; but now, just as she had ten years before, Liz felt warm and protected in the loving arms of her husband.

Liz heard the rumble of a sigh echo through Hellboy’s chest. Bending his head down, he kissed the top of her head and drew her closer. “Liz, I know this is something we never talk about; but do you remember the time I first met you?”

“It’s hard to say, Red,” Liz said so quietly that he almost couldn’t hear her, “I definitely remember Trevor rescuing me from the streets of Portland, Oregon when I was seventeen and I came to live with you all in Newark for the first time. And I know from what Trevor was able to let me read in the files the FBI holds on me that you were in Chicago just a few days after…” she stopped, unable to go on; finding the guilt for that inferno, which she only remembered in her nightmares, still too hard to bear.

Hellboy kissed the top of her head again. “Aw, sorry, Lizzie; shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.”

Lifting her head, Liz smiled up at him. “Don’t be sorry, H.B. Meeting you was the only good thing that came out of that horrible time, even though I can just barely remember you giving me chocolate and then holding me while I wept and wept. The FBI tried to wipe my memory; but deep in my heart, I could never truly forget my big, red guardian angel. Once I found you again, I can never forgive myself for all of the times I ran away from you; searching for some mythical ‘normal’ human life.”

Pulling Hellboy’s head down into a passionate kiss, Liz completely drove out of his suddenly rattled brain any possible reply to all of this. In spite of their rather exposed location, Hellboy and Liz were driven wild by an overwhelming desire for each other; both reminded of the first time they had made love in front of the fireplace on the floor of the library after Hellboy’s sixtieth birthday party when they had become engaged to be married.

Managing to find the strength to pull away from Liz’s caresses, Hellboy lifted her up from the bench, gently setting her back on her feet. “Liz, I don’t think Manning would be too keen on us getting arrested for indecent exposure,” he laughed, as he helped her straighten out her wedding dress.

Taking Liz’s right hand in his left, they slowly walked back to the restaurant. Hellboy was surprised on their return to find that he hadn’t been away for much more than twenty minutes; to him, it seemed more like he had been away for an entire lifetime. They walked back in just as Mindy’s son, Trevor, was about to fire the two offending waitresses. “It’s not just that these ‘freaks’, as you called them, are very close friends of ours,” he was saying, “It’s that my grandfather, mother, and I cannot and will not have people working for us who are intolerant of those of our customers who are different.”

Liz whispered something into Hellboy’s ear; who then approached Trevor Carlton. “Treve, neither one of us wants to see anyone fired over this. The girls were rude; but Liz and I feel we overreacted to it.”

The two waitresses fell all over themselves trying to apologize. Hellboy stopped them. “Maybe I was a bit too naïve about how easy it would be to protect Liz from this kind of stuff. I now understand better why my father felt compelled to keep me hidden. It wasn’t to keep me as a prisoner; it was the only way he knew to protect me. Unfortunately, I realized that a bit too late. Liz and I got married on March 19th because it’s Saint Joseph’s Day. He’s the patron saint of fathers, but especially of adoptive fathers and we chose that day to remember a great man. My father forgave me so many times for being stupid, I think I can pass the favor along.”

Later, when Hellboy and Liz were dancing the last dance before the end of the party, she leaned in and whispered, “I have never regretted the choice I made in Moscow.”

“Neither have I,” Hellboy whispered back, as he pulled her closer to him.

More to come…

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