Author’s note: This chapter is not following a linear progression in the storytelling. Part Thirteen ended with a significant conversation between retired nurse Martha Wilson and Hellboy in 1994; followed by a brief return to the 2178 time period of Part One. This part will begin with an interlude; followed by a narrative that takes place a few years after the end of the first Hellboy movie. Some things I want to avoid: I have no particular urge in this chapter to merely retell in my own words what we already know took place between H.B. and Liz in the first movie. I’m planning on saving some of that for my John Myers chapter. I also want to avoid developing a storyline that will deviate to any large extent from what Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro are planning to reveal in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, which is in principle photography even as we speak and due out next summer. (Yippee!!)
Chapter Six: Liz Sherman
Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and Love
Rolling along with the direction of the wave, Hellboy allowed it to push him up onto the beach. Blinking salt water out of his eyes, he pushed back hair that had worked its way out of its usual knot.
“This is weird,” he mumbled out loud, as he looked around at the beautifully sunny and familiar vista of white sand and palm trees that surrounded him. “How in the hell did I manage to get back here?”
Here was definitely that little island in the Bahamas where he had spent one of the most memorable weeks of his life in February of 1987. Yet, it had been many years later than 1987 when he went to bed last night; a bed that for the first time in almost a year was missing the woman he had married in March of 2005.
Shaking his head, Hellboy tried to remember what had driven Liz away from him the previous night and how he had managed to return to a location he hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Maybe this was nothing but a dream; and, yet, as he looked toward the two cabins in the distance, it felt so real.
Feeling a bit silly just standing there, dripping water from the black swim trunks he was now wearing, Hellboy began to trudge along the beach toward the closer of those cabins; the one that Trevor Broom had stayed in back in 1987.
“Pop? You in here?” he said, as he pushed the door to the cabin open and entered into its pleasantly cool interior. One part of him felt that it was a little ridiculous to call out for a man who had been dead for several years; while, at the same time, a much larger part of him hoped that this was one of those pleasant dreams where anything you truly wanted could happen. Frequently, Hellboy’s dreams about Trevor Broom were nightmares; the horrifying kind where he stood paralyzed and helpless as the one person who meant more to him than any other was murdered right in front of his eyes.
Looking around as he entered, he called out again; but everything was silent. A tweed jacket on a hook just inside the cabin entrance caught his eye; it was his father’s favorite jacket. A jacket that he remembered from his earliest years and one that he recalled seeing Trevor Broom wear just a few days before he had been stabbed, when Hellboy had been just short of his sixtieth birthday.
Gently taking it down from the hook with his normal-sized left hand, Hellboy closed his eyes and buried his face in it. Taking a deep breath, a feeling half of joy and half of deep sorrow washed over him as the scents that clung to its soft, well-worn folds reminded him of a man he had lost forever.
A man that, just the night before, he had been wishing was still around to give him advice.
Sighing, Hellboy replaced the jacket on the hook. What started out as a pleasant dream was quickly turning into something that reminded him of how he had started taking his father’s advice for granted; how he had stopped listening to most of what he had been trying to say to him.
It was as if this enormous door had been locked between them that neither had the power to open; and when Hellboy had knelt on the blood-soaked carpet in his father’s office with his body in his arms, that door had suddenly flown open, when it was far too late to either ask for or to offer forgiveness.
Hellboy wished he could turn back the clock, smash down that locked door, and listen to anything his father wanted to say to him; wished he could take back the angry, hurtful things he had said to Liz the evening before. Even though he still loved Liz with every fiber of his being, he knew that he was allowing a very similar, impenetrable door to come between them and again felt helpless to prevent it.
“Oh, I’m such a damned fool,” he groaned.
“Hmm, maybe,” a heart-breakingly familiar voice said from the kitchen, “But you must be famished after your long swim. Come on in and I’ll make you some toasted cheese sandwiches; that should hold you over until supper is ready.”
Walking into the kitchen, Hellboy soon found himself face-to-face with the man who had raised him; the British man who had always called grilled cheese sandwiches ‘toasted cheese’ and made them from white bread and sharp cheddar toasted under the broiler rather than fried in butter.
“Go ahead and sit down, Son. These won’t take long.” Finding himself unable to say one word, Hellboy sank into one of the large chairs at the kitchen table and watched Trevor Broom fuss with what he had at one time called ‘the ultimate comfort food’. Soon a plate piled high with the gooey, deliciously smelling, brown-toasted sandwiches had been placed on the table before Hellboy.
There had been a time, years before, when a plate of these sandwiches and the attentive ear of his ever-wise father would get him to admit to whatever was bothering him; and the advice given to him seemed like just the perfect thing. Then there came that day when Trevor Broom hadn’t seemed so wise anymore and Hellboy’s troubles seemed too big for toasted cheese sandwiches and quiet talks.
Calmly turning away to clean up the pan he had used, Trevor Broom gave Hellboy a little time to collect his scattered wits. He then sat down at one of the other chairs at the table and pushed the plate of sandwiches closer to Hellboy. “Please, eat; it will make you feel better.”
Hellboy took a deep, if somewhat shaky breath as if about to say something; instead, he picked up one of the still-warm sandwiches and took a large bite. The combination of melted cheese and crisp, perfectly toasted bread tasted just as wonderful as he remembered; but he could hardly swallow anything past the ever-growing lump in his throat.
Looking into the face of the father he thought he would never see again, he saw nothing but love in the light-brown eyes that he could just barely discern behind the familiar spectacles. He would have expected anger and accusation, or at least disappointment, in the eyes of the man he had left alone and unprotected to go chasing after his own selfish needs. All he could see was the same profound affection for him that had always been there, even at the very lowest ebb of their relationship.
Looking down at the plate in front of him, Hellboy shook his head. “I’m sorry, Father; no amount of cheese sandwiches are gonna make me feel better.”
“Son, look at me,” Trevor Broom gently turned Hellboy’s face back toward him, “You should never be sorry for telling people how you feel. It’s better than leaving them guessing.” Smiling, he nodded and dropped his hand again. “Now, eat another of those sandwiches and tell me what’s bothering you.”
Hellboy picked up a sandwich and looked down at it for a time. “I can’t help it,” he finally muttered, “when Liz lets other guys talk to her, I just go completely crazy.” He started mangling the sandwich he still held in his left hand. “It’s bad enough that she’s got to work with other guys at the Bureau; but that last mission in Pennsylvania, did she really have to let that waiter…”
Before Hellboy could finish what he was saying, Trevor Broom reached out and touched his left hand, interrupting further destruction of the innocent sandwich, and stopping the ever-louder flow of words.
“So, you don’t trust Liz?” Trevor Broom asked as Hellboy looked up at him again.
“Her, I trust just fine,” he grumbled, “It’s those other guys; I for sure don’t trust them.”
Hellboy pulled his left hand away from Trevor Broom and angrily bit into the squashed sandwich as if it were one of ‘those other guys’ that he so distrusted. “Maybe I do overreact sometimes,” he went on as he chomped what he had bitten off, “but there’re other times that… and then Liz gets pissed off at me and I say stuff that I don’t really mean and then…”
“She’s right to be ‘pissed off’, as you so succinctly put it, Son,” Trevor Broom said with a small grin, “Somehow, Liz never came across to me as one who would be untrustworthy in matters of the heart. I believe she would be strong enough to deal with any man who treated her in an inappropriate way.”
Finishing off the sandwich he was eating, Hellboy picked up another and started munching on that. “What I don’t get, Pop, is why she has to talk to these other guys at all; can’t I be enough for her?”
Trevor Broom shook his head; “It’s not fair of you to expect Liz to isolate herself from others like that. How would you like it if she insisted that you cut off your friendship with Kate Corrigan because at one time you and Kate used to be lovers?”
“Yeah, but Liz knows that Katie and I haven’t… at least not since, you know …” Hellboy trailed off.
“Yes, I know,” Trevor Broom sighed, “I also know that Liz has always trusted that to be true and knows you well enough to be sure you will always be faithful.”
Hellboy shrugged, “Outside of Kate and Liz, what girls have ever been interested in me?”
Trevor Broom laughed, “So, have you been faithful to Liz merely due to lack of temptation?”
Hellboy glared at him and muttered, “Of course not; you know that.”
“Of course, I know that,” Broom replied with a smile and then became more serious, “You should trust that Liz also intends to be faithful to you and knows how to handle temptation.”
Hellboy made an impatient gesture with the cheese sandwich he held in his left hand, opened his mouth to reply, and then closed it again. “You’re right, Pop, just like always,” he eventually muttered, “I don’t really trust Liz and she knows it. That’s why she so pissed off.”
Hellboy dropped his half-eaten sandwich onto the plate in front of him and stood up from the table. Turning away from Trevor Broom, he stared out of a window that afforded a view onto the placid ocean and serenely beautiful beach. He wished that this external calm could tame the conflicting emotions that battled inside of him.
“I can’t help what I feel,” Hellboy eventually said, without turning around.
“No, you cannot,” he heard his father’s voice, “What you feel is what you feel; but you can help the way you act on those feelings. The well-controlled man learns to be in command of his actions rather than reacting in the heat of the moment and then regretting those actions later.”
“Since when have I ever not acted in the heat of the moment?” Hellboy laughed, as he turned away from the window again. “Direct and in your face; that’s my way of dealing with almost everything.”
Trevor Broom moved closer and laid his left hand on Hellboy’s shoulder. “Son, I am so very proud of how you have changed and grown since last we met; however, your relationship with Liz demands a level of maturity that I fear you have yet to attain.”
Silently turning his head to the right, Hellboy laid his cheek on the hand that still lay on his shoulder; the hand that, so many times in the past, had been there when he needed an anchor to hang on to; the same hand that he had touched one last time as he held a dead body close to him.
Lifting his head again, Hellboy took a deep breath, “Father, I…”
As he began to speak, the kitchen where he was standing flashed out of existence; spinning into a gigantic wave of seawater that dragged him into total darkness. Reaching out for anything that he could grab on to in order not to be swept away as the water began to pour into a measureless abyss, he slammed up against what felt like a large wooden frame.
As he clung desperately to this, the water drained away and light returned; and he once again found himself standing before an enormous portrait propped up against a table.
Hellboy sat up with a gasp. Finding himself alone in the bed he had long ago fabricated from an old red pickup truck and a mattress, he wondered where Liz had gone. The large room was more quiet than usual, especially now that he was alone.
At one time, regardless of the hour, his room would have been filled with the light and sound of his many television sets. Hellboy could sleep through almost anything. Liz could not; and he agreed on most evenings to keep the room dark and quiet after midnight. She, for her part, had agreed to let him keep his large brood of cats and kittens as long as his pets were not too intrusive.
In the dim stillness, Hellboy could hear the contented purring of several of his cats from Liz’s usual spot on the bed. He almost drifted back to sleep; but then recalled why Liz was not sleeping with him, recalled the silly fight he had picked with her the evening before.
At almost the same time, bits and pieces of a strange dream came into his head. If he hadn’t been so annoyed with himself for once again driving Liz crazy, he would have smiled at what he recalled of that dream. Usually, his dreams of Trevor Broom were nightmares about his murder, not visions of toasted cheese sandwiches and beautiful white-sanded beaches.
Unfortunately, he could recall little else; beyond how strange the dream became just before some noise awakened him. As he shifted on the mattress, wondering what this noise had been, he heard the sound of someone stumbling in the darkness and realized that the large metal door to his quarters was now slightly ajar.
“Ouch!” He then heard a series of intense, if whispered curses from the other side of the room.
“Lizzie?” Sitting up further, Hellboy stared in the dark toward where he thought the sound had come.
“Yeah, Red, it’s me.” Her voice sounded somewhat tight, as if she were in pain.
Leaning over the wooden-slatted side of the truck where he was half-reclining, Hellboy pressed a switch that turned on some lights without giving power to the televisions. He then slid down the mattress to the open metal tailgate and sat there watching Liz limp over to him.
“You okay?” he asked as she sat down at the end of the truck next to him.
“Stepped on a piece of glass,” she replied as she bent down to examine her foot. “Must have been from that mug I threw at you last night.”
“Jeez, I thought I cleaned that up.” Hellboy bent to look closer at Liz’s injury. There was a long gash that was bleeding profusely. Guilt welled up. If he hadn’t provoked her to anger, she wouldn’t have broken the mug; if he had been more careful in cleaning up the ceramic fragments rather than fuming over their argument, she wouldn’t have cut herself.
“C’mon, Lizzie; let’s go get that cut cleaned up.” He helped her stand from the tailgate that comprised the foot of their bed. As he did this, she sucked in her breath in pain.
“I think there’s still a splinter in my foot,” she winced as she sank back down to the tailgate.
Hellboy bent down and lifted Liz’s smaller-framed body into his arms, carrying her across the room toward the partially open door. He couldn’t help thinking of the time he had carried her through a confusion of tunnels below a Moscow cemetery, when Liz appeared more dead than alive and Hellboy was sure it was the end of their relationship before they even had a beginning. Or carrying her on their wedding day the following year, when she had never seemed more alive nor he more happy.
As Hellboy walked toward the medical wing, he began to wonder why he was allowing the unexpected beauty of their devotion to one another degenerate into these petty squabbles. He was not the most introspective of beings; yet, recent events, coupled with some vague memories of his latest dream of Trevor Broom, started to send Hellboy’s thoughts down unaccustomed paths.
The very act of carrying in his arms the woman he loved more than any other brought Hellboy’s reflection back to what had happened in Moscow a little over a year earlier. He couldn’t help recalling how Rasputin, dangling Hellboy’s love for Liz in front of him like some infernal carrot, had almost managed to seduce him to his nefarious purposes.
Yet, all it had taken was one mere reminder to Hellboy of the man who had raised him and loved him; and Rasputin and his dark plans were smashed against something as solid and real to Hellboy as the Rock of Gibraltar. After getting to this point in his thoughts, Hellboy abruptly stopped walking.
“H.B. is something wrong?” As Hellboy heard Liz’s startled voice, a sudden, blazing insight ripped into the very core of his being. Rather than undermining the rock of his devotion to his late father, Hellboy’s love for Liz and her love for him had strengthened it even further; turning that devotion into a wall of protection around Hellboy that no power from Hell could penetrate, not unless his own actions or emotions helped to chip away at that wall.
“Son,” Hellboy heard a well-loved voice from the past, “jealousy is never a pretty emotion. The fact that you were harboring this emotion was something the entity possessing you was able to exploit, driving you into actions that you would never have performed when in your right mind.”
“No, Lizzie, there’s nothing wrong,” he said and again resumed his walk toward the medical wing.
Twenty minutes later, Hellboy and Liz found themselves back on the mattress in the back of his old red pickup truck. Hellboy had been relieved when they found that the wound on Liz’s foot was less than it had initially appeared and she hadn’t needed stitches. Her foot was now neatly bandaged and a topical cream had been applied to help healing and prevent scarring. The cream had stung a little, and Liz was now wide-awake waiting for a prescription painkiller to kick in.
As Hellboy lay next to Liz, he eased her into his arms and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry about what happened last night, Liz.”
Liz relaxed her head onto Hellboy’s chest. “I know you are, H.B.; but you’re always sorry and then the same damn stuff just starts up again. You’ve always been a bit on the jealous side, but I wish I could understand why it’s been so much worse lately.”
Kissing the top of Liz’s head, Hellboy sighed. “I think I’m starting to know why; and I can promise you it will stop. I can’t promise that I won’t ever feel jealous again, but like Pop told me, I can learn to be in command of my actions rather than acting in the heat of the moment.”
Liz snuggled closer as Hellboy wrapped his left arm around her. “Oh, H.B., that sounds so much like the Professor,” she said as he laid her head on his shoulder, “When did he give you that bit of advice?”
Yawning sleepily, Hellboy shook his head. “Funny thing; I don’t really remember.” He drifted off to sleep with his wife in his arms, happier than he had felt in a long time.
“Human, you have once again managed to keep my son from me.” In a strange sort of dream, Hellboy swore he heard a cold, dark, menacing voice.
“As long as he retains the power to love,” came another voice, bringing light and warmth, “he will forever be my son, in whom I am well pleased; and you will never be able to touch him.”
More to come...
Author's afterword: Sorry this has taken so long to post. I found it very difficult to write.
P.S. Feedback would be nice...
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