Author’s note: This follows right after Part Fifteen; make sure to read that if you haven’t had a chance yet.

Chapter Six: Liz Sherman

Fear of Fire: A Tale of Trust and LovePart Sixteen

Ignoring the group of agents milling around in the office, Hellboy pushed his way closer to where Trevor Broom was seated at his oaken desk, a stack of official looking papers placed in front of him.

“Liz is back? She’s really back?” Hellboy still couldn’t quite take in what Trevor Broom had been discussing with these agents as he first walked in.

“Yes, Son, Liz has returned to us.” Broom lifted and scanned the first of the pages in front of him.

He looked up, startled, as Hellboy’s left hand slammed down on top of his desk. “What in the Hell does she think we are, Pop? Some hotel where she can just come and go as she damn well pleases?”

“Kindly refrain from this unnecessarily emphatic language,” Trevor Broom said in a deceptively quiet voice as he placed the paper he had been perusing back on top of the stack. “Her return to the Bureau was not some casual decision made on a whim. There’s more to this than you are aware.”

It was clear that Trevor Broom was planning to continue, but was cut off as Hellboy’s gigantic right hand closed into a stone fist and came down with a crash; making the various writing implements and other items on the desk jump and rattle. That fist dug even further into the wood, as Hellboy leaned across the desk. “Aw, c’mon, Pop, it’s like she thinks she can just waltz back in here whenever…”

A few nearby agents backed away, as Trevor Broom arose from his seat in that icily calm manner that told those who knew him that he was furiously angry. “Hellboy, please desist from gouging the top of my desk or shouting in my face. Sit down before you say or do anything that you may later regret.”

With a grunt, Hellboy backed off and sullenly collapsed into the closest chair that could support him.

“Gentlemen,” Broom turned toward the obviously ill at ease agents, “if there is nothing more to report at this time, please retire to your quarters, and we will discuss these matters further in the morning.”

The group of agents departed. Trevor Broom once again picked up the top page from the stack in front of him and continued his reading of it. As the silence between them stretched to the point of making Hellboy self-conscious, the anger he felt toward Liz began to fade; and he found himself considering the perplexing tangle of emotions that had brought on that outburst at Trevor Broom.

Recalling all of the disturbing events of 1994, with its losses and almost losses, Hellboy realized that he was furious with Liz for coming back mainly because she could come back. Ed Kelly, who only intended a temporary leave from their Boston adjunct headquarters after almost losing an eye in the last exorcism he performed with Hellboy, had that very ability to come back ripped violently from him.

Somewhere deep down, Hellboy knew that the anger he felt was as much with his own self as with Liz. It was his inability to deal with her departure earlier in the year that had driven Kate Corrigan away and then caused the events that brought Trevor Broom to the point of an almost fatal heart attack. The more recent loss of Ed Kelly just brought all that anger at himself and Liz closer to the surface.

And here he was, thoughtlessly taking this anger out on Trevor Broom. Especially at a time when he knew his father had his own disturbing memories of past losses to deal with, along with the particulars of Liz’s unexpected return. He got up from his chair and moved back toward Broom’s desk.

“Father, I…” he started, when Trevor Broom interrupted him with a wry, but still affectionate smile.

“No need to apologize, Son. I too was at fault. I’m afraid that neither of us is at our best right now.”

Hellboy nodded. “But I’m still ticked off with Liz,” he said after a slight pause, “Can’t she understand how worried I… how worried we… I… Aw, crap,” he finally sighed and rubbed at the top of his head with his left hand. “She’s okay, isn’t she?” In spite of his anger, a deep concern for Liz filled his eyes.

“I had hoped to learn more before I shared this with you,” Trevor Broom began, but raised his hand when Hellboy appeared about to say something to that statement. “I also understand that you have a significant need to know all that relates to Liz. Sit back down and I will tell you as much as I know; but first I need to finish scanning these documents as they are related to the matter at hand.”

Hellboy returned to the chair he had just been sitting in and waited; if not exactly patiently, at least he suffered silently enough not to interrupt Broom’s study of the documents. After a good quarter of an hour, during which time Hellboy stared at the fire and tried not to fidget too much, Trevor Broom stood up with a deep sigh and stretched.

Shifting another chair closer to Hellboy, he sat down and silently contemplated his overgrown, but still too often adolescent son. “One of the reasons,” he finally began, “that we could never locate Liz was that she had managed to dye her hair and establish a false identity that, until just now, had not come either to the FBI’s or to our attention. The records I now have before me show that Liz managed for a time to live on her own with little trouble, but at one point her control slipped and she ended up living on the streets in Greenwich Village near Waverly Place. It wasn’t long after this that she came to the attention of Charles Heyling, the psychiatrist who directs the Bellamie Mental Hospital in Manhattan.”

Broom shifted in his chair and leaned closer toward Hellboy. “As you are well aware, Son, many of those who exhibit weird ‘talents’ end up classified as mentally unstable. They are often confined in hospitals such as the Bellamie; which frequently have no idea how to deal with such baffling cases. Charles has been a confidential consultant with the Bureau ever since our arrival in Newark. He has established a special ward for just such ‘untreatable’ cases and has managed to help a lot of troubled men and women develop the control they need to reinstate some normality in their lives.”

“I’m assuming from what you’re telling me,” Hellboy interrupted, “that this Charles guy found out who Liz really was. So, why didn’t he tell us he had her in his hospital?”

“One of the reasons Charles has been so successful,” Broom replied, “is that patient confidentiality is paramount with him. I highly respect his position on this; complete confidentiality is, in many cases, the only way he can get these poor souls to trust him enough to allow him to work with them.”

“Well, then why is Liz back here? Because the stuff this guy did with her worked or because it didn’t?” Hellboy suspected that Trevor Broom was hesitating to get to the real point of the matter.

Broom sighed, “You know that Liz often loses control when she becomes panicked or intensely angry. I assume we both recall what occurred in that Louisiana swamp this past January.”

Hellboy grunted, “I never could get her to see that it was as much my fault as hers. I was the one who got too cocky and let the situation get out of control. I think I would’ve panicked, too, if I’d seen my two partners grabbed by a swamp demon and sucked into the bayou.”

Broom nodded, “I also tried to reassure her that what had happened was merely a small setback in her struggle to bring her abilities under stricter control. Yet, I was not surprised when she left us again not long after that incident. I just wish she hadn’t felt compelled to disappear completely.”

“Look, Pop, I know all this,” Hellboy jumped in. He then leant forward and placed his left hand on Trevor Broom’s knee, “Father, I can tell you’re hiding something from me. Stop rambling and just tell me what’s up with her now.”

More to come…

Author’s afterword: What with the approaching holidays, concert rehearsals, etc., I find myself with less and less time to write. At this point in time, shorter updates mean more frequent ones. My thanks to all who have been following this.

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