Author’s note: I’m not going to keep putting disclaimers on each part. This might not make sense if you haven’t read the previous parts to Chapter Six. Also, some time ago I wrote a short Hellboy fic entitled The New Girl. This part of my ‘Liz’ chapter to Hellboy’s Family picks up from that.
Chapter Six: Liz Sherman
Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and Love—Part Seven
Just before lunchtime, Hellboy had noticed the arrival to the BPRD headquarters in Newark of an adolescent girl who looked vaguely familiar to him. Immediately attracted to her fragile melancholy, he found himself even more intrigued by a sense of underlying strength.
Upon asking Trevor Broom the identity of this attractive young woman, Hellboy reminded him that he had met Elizabeth Sherman six years before at the Chicago BPRD adjunct facility. Broom, who had regrettably been abroad in England at the time, had forgotten of this meeting; which had been purged from all the official FBI documents on Liz.
When the BPRD agents in Chicago had failed to prove to the federal government’s satisfaction that the eleven-year-old girl was a pyrokinetic, the FBI erased Liz’s memory of her visit to the Chicago facility and her brief meeting with Hellboy. They then released her to the municipal authorities in Detroit, where she had resided when an unexplained block-wide fire left her orphaned in December of 1986.
Upon Trevor Broom’s return to the United States early in 1987, Hellboy had made a complete report to him of what little he had learned of Liz Sherman. At that time, Broom had desperately tried to convince the FBI to keep closer tabs on her; but could not convince them of the need. He was more than annoyed with how they merely allowed young Liz to be dumped into the labyrinthine bowels of the Detroit child welfare system.
As the FBI considered his fears unwarranted and Liz was still a minor, Trevor Broom was blocked from following her case on his own. As much as he was still concerned about her, it wasn’t long before various duties pushed the memory of her to the back of his mind.
Toward the middle of December of 1992, Trevor Broom went on several long trips. Hellboy noticed these absences; and yet, like usual, he couldn’t be bothered asking about it. If he had, he would have found out that Liz unexpectedly came to Broom’s attention once again when she had run away from a foster home in one of the suburbs of Detroit; not, Broom soon learned, for the first time.
But this time she crossed state lines; which again brought her to the attention of the FBI, who then contacted Trevor Broom. Due to the routine sealing of juvenile records, it wasn’t until this time that Broom had found out about Liz’s unfortunate reputation as a runaway risk and suspected fire-setter. She had been shuffled from one foster home to another, never finding a welcome for very long in any; mainly due to the fires that seemed to follow her everywhere she went.
After being reminded of Hellboy’s meeting with Liz in 1986, Broom allowed him to look at the records the FBI had just released. It wasn’t until reading these records that Hellboy understood just how many exhaustive hours and Bureau resources his father had spent trying to determine the fate of the fugitive girl. For, regardless of how little authority the FBI had allowed Broom to have over Liz’s case, he felt completely responsible for her welfare once she again came to his notice.
Trevor Broom finally located Liz living on the streets of Portland, Oregon. Managing to gain the wary adolescent girl’s trust, Broom convinced her to return with him to Newark. For the first time she was being offered what appeared to be a sanctuary; a place where hopefully she could obtain training in controlling the ‘gift’ that had always appeared to her as nothing but a dreaded curse.
It was not long after her arrival to the Newark facility that Hellboy noticed her in a corridor near Broom’s office and had inquired into the identity of this strangely familiar-looking girl. He was more than a little disappointed that Broom was not planning on introducing him to her right away.
Knowing that trying to wheedle Broom into changing his mind would only irritate him, Hellboy finally drifted back to his own quarters. He couldn’t help feeling that some missing piece of his life had just clicked into place; one that he hadn’t even realized was missing.
In fact, at this point, his life had never been better; even in his own eyes. His relationships with Trevor Broom, Abe Sapien, and his FBI colleagues had never been stronger. Even his long-time romance with Kate Corrigan, if still intermittent, had never seemed more satisfying.
Then why did seeing a girl he barely remembered until that day leave him feeling as if his life had just changed forever? Almost having no appetite for his supper, he spent most of the evening and far into the night watching videos of his favorite Charlie Chaplin and Gene Autry movies; finally relaxing enough to fall in to a deep, dreamless slumber.
Several hours later, Hellboy abruptly sat up from a sound sleep. Heart beating wildly, his inner vision was filled with an overpowering impression of cool sapphire-blue flames that rapidly became an apocalyptically bright orange-yellow blaze of destruction. This devastating mental picture was somewhat similar to the Hell-infested nightmares of his childhood, but something felt out of place.
As he began to get his bearings, a realization dawned on him. He wasn’t exactly sure how he knew; but he did know. This was not his own nightmare that had just aroused him. Climbing out of the back of the pickup truck he used for a bed, Hellboy quickly pulled on his black leather pants, pushed open the large metal door to his room, and walked out into the corridor.
Noticing a commotion in the section of the facility that contained guest and adjunct facility quarters, Hellboy quickly strode in that direction. As he did so, he became aware of the smell of smoke.
“It’s a good thing the Professor thought to fire-proof some of these rooms,” one agent was saying to another as Hellboy arrived. “At least right now the fire’s contained only to her quarters.”
The agent who had been addressed shook his head, “And I thought all this ‘firestarter’ stuff was just in books and movies; you know, the kind of crap Stephen King dishes up.”
“It’s real, Walker,” the two agents looked up as Hellboy spoke, “Rare, mind you; but it does happen.”
He turned toward the first agent he had heard speak, “Boyd, how long has this been going on?”
“Not sure; about ten minutes, maybe. Security sent for us after they received a silent alarm from inside her room, but we can’t get in. Agent Shale’s gone to get the Professor.”
Just then, a rather disheveled looking Trevor Broom arrived. “I feared something like this, but she seemed so calm earlier. Even though I tried not to delve too deeply into what happened when she was eleven, I’m concerned that she may be undergoing some sort of posttraumatic flashback.”
“She’s having a nightmare,” Hellboy grunted. As Broom looked up in slight surprise at his certainty, Hellboy gave a small shrug. “Don’t ask me why, Pop; I just know and it’s a really bad one.”
A security guard arrived, “The sprinkler system in the room is keeping the fire contained, Professor, but it’s still not safe for any of you to enter.”
Just then, Abe Sapien arrived and was advised of the nature of the alarm. After being informed of Hellboy’s belief that the fire was caused by Liz having a nightmare, he moved closer to the door and placed a gloved webbed hand on it. In spite of the fact that the door was fireproof, he definitely could feel the extreme heat contained within.
After a moment of consideration, the psychic fish-man turned toward Hellboy. “I’m not quite sure how you managed to figure it out so quickly, Red; it is a nightmare. I’m afraid that as long as she remains in its throes, the fire will continue to burn and become more and more difficult to contain.”
“Well, here goes another pair of these pants,” Broom heard Hellboy mutter. “Father, let me go in,” Hellboy continued louder, turning toward him, “Fire won’t do much to me, you know.”
“I know, Son; I know,” Broom laid a gently restraining hand on his shoulder. “But I’m afraid you might frighten her even more. It was not clear to me when I interviewed Liz after lunch today that she recalls meeting you when she was eleven. She doesn’t appear to recall much from that time period of her life at all.” Broom sighed deeply, “I really wish the FBI had heeded my warning when she first came to our attention that there was more to this girl than they could easily discover.”
Hellboy shook his head, “Someone’s got to try and wake her up, Pop. I know you’re afraid that seeing me might make it worse, but I just have to try. I know what it’s like to have bad dreams, you know. I hate the idea of Lizzie being all alone in there.” The still vivid memory of the disturbing vision that had wakened him earlier made him even more determined to do something, anything to help her.
As Broom and Hellboy had been speaking, even more personnel manned with fire extinguishers and other equipment began to arrive; obviously concerned that the room’s sprinkler system, even with the fire-retardant walls and doors, could not contain the flames indefinitely.
Shaking off Trevor Broom’s hand from his shoulder, Hellboy moved toward the door to Liz’s quarters; even he could sense the heat radiating from it. He stood for a moment contemplating the door.
“Does this door lock from the inside, Pop?” Hellboy asked as both his father and Abe Sapien moved to stand near him.
“No; I thought it unwise to place a possibly unstable ‘talent’ in a room where we could be locked out. Not that I wish to deny Liz her privacy, but emergencies like this were bound to arise; although I was naïve enough to hope that it would not be tonight.”
Reaching down, Hellboy touched the doorknob and then let go of it. He then indicated for everyone, including Abe and Trevor Broom, to back away from the entrance to Liz’s quarters.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” he grumbled, “Someone give me a fire extinguisher; wouldn’t want the flames to surge out into the corridor. I’ll slam the door behind me when I get in.”
Agent Walker handed Hellboy an extinguisher and then backed away from the door. First slowly turning the doorknob to unlatch it, Hellboy then pushed the door open with his stone-like right hand while shooting out fire-retardant foam from the canister in his left. As soon as he had penetrated into Liz’s quarters, Hellboy kicked the door back shut with one of his unshod cloven hooves.
Lungs almost overwhelmed by the lack of oxygen in the room, Hellboy blindly penetrated further into the barely-controlled inferno. If it had not been for the water continually pouring from the fire sprinklers in the ceiling, even the reinforced walls and doors would not be able to contain the flames.
Hellboy may have been invulnerable to fire, especially his enormous stone-like right hand; but he was not completely indestructible. He could feel his leather pants burning away completely; and as he raised his huge right hand to protect his face, trying to see in the midst of all of this destruction where Liz might be, he began to wonder why he was endangering himself for a girl he barely knew.
Yet, some feeling deep in his heart drove him further into the room; part of him knew that he would risk even more than death before he would ever abandon this young girl to her fate.
More to come…
Author’s apology: I meant both to post more and to post sooner, but life and the holidays got in the way. I decided to post this much before going away for New Year’s Eve. I hope everyone has a great 2007 and even though I will be posting the rest of this later than I intended, it will still go the direction I originally planned if I had posted right before Christmas.
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