LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Author’s notes: Starting with my first Hellboy fic Father’s Day Gifts, I have liked to find the time to post something for major holidays. I find myself with a little extra time in the midst of cleaning up the house and rehearsing music for our trip to the Berkshire Choral Festival. So here’s a little something for the Fourth of July.
This fic is connected to my earlier Hellboy fic A Tale of ‘Demon’ Rights, which gives more detail for my original characters ‘Lee’, the FBI liaison, and Paul Johanssen, Broom’s assistant. General Norton Ricker is from the original comics and also mentioned in del Toro’s backstory material for the movie; he is the military commanding officer in charge of the BPRD in New Mexico.Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
It was in the year 1943 when President Roosevelt contacted the twenty-seven-year old Trevor Broom, an English expert on the paranormal. He was requested to come to Washington to consult with the president on the possibility the Nazis were attempting to use black magic to win the war. Demonstrating to the president’s satisfaction his vast knowledge of Nazi occultism, Broom was asked to head up a clandestine FBI-connected organization that would keep track of Nazi paranormal activities and counter them if necessary.
By the end of the year 1944, Trevor Broom had permanently re-located to the United States, bringing along an infant creature he had discovered while fighting against the Nazis on an island in Scotland. To President Roosevelt’s surprise, Broom made it clear he would not accept a permanent position as director of the newly designated Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense unless he was allowed to keep custody of this creature and raise it as his son.
After returning to the United States, Broom and Hellboy, along with Broom’s American assistant, Paul Johanssen, moved around a series of secret military bases eventually ending up in Virginia right before New Year’s. It was at this time President Roosevelt called Broom to Washington to meet with him, intentionally choosing a time when most Washington staffers were still on holiday.
One of the reasons Broom was being called to Washington was to meet a former secret service agent, who had worked espionage during the war under the codename of ‘L.’ or ‘Lee’. Now a recently elected member of the House of Representatives, this man agreed to act as liaison between the FBI and Broom’s organization using his former codename.
The other reason why Broom was being called to Washington was President Roosevelt wished to see the child, this so-called ‘Hellboy’, for himself. The president felt any decisions as to Hellboy’s custody arrangements could not be made without witnessing for himself the developing relationship between Broom and this infant creature.
The visit was arranged for a time and place in Washington where no one would see Broom or Hellboy except the president and ‘Lee’. When Trevor Broom, dressed in his best three-piece suit, arrived with Hellboy in tow, Lee conducted him into a kind of antechamber and returned into the office where the president was located.
Unbeknownst to Broom, the large picture on the wall next to the door into the office was a special window allowing the occupants of the office to look into the room without being seen. This room also had miniature microphones implanted in the walls and ceiling. Having no idea he was being spied upon, Broom sat down in a chair with Hellboy on his lap and waited to be called on.
Hellboy, who was dressed only in diapers specially designed to accommodate his tail, became fidgety after some minutes of waiting. Broom allowed Hellboy to climb down from his lap and curiously examine the room, carefully watching he not damage anything in the process. Broom jumped up every so often to stop the infant demon from attempting to touch anything with his over-sized, stone-like right hand, which the child still had only rudimentary control over if he became too excited.
President Roosevelt, seated as he was in his wheelchair, could not see into the antechamber. However, he could hear Broom’s words of warning that Hellboy not touch this or that item. Lee, who was able to watch through this window, laughed quietly after a while. “This Professor Broom looks just like any father trying to control a bored child in a doctor’s waiting room, Mr. President. If you’re asking my opinion, he has treated the rambunctious creature with great patience and kindness.”
After a while, chasing Hellboy became very taxing for Broom, who had only recently recovered from a wound in his right leg received from a Nazi bullet the night he discovered him. Picking Hellboy up, Broom sat back down in the chair and fished in one of his vest pockets for a Baby Ruth candy bar. Placating the fidgety demon child with the chocolate, Broom managed to get him to sit still.
Gently kissing Hellboy’s forehead just below the tiny horns, Broom spoke quietly, “You’re a good boy; a very good boy. What will I do if they won’t let me keep you?” Holding Hellboy closer, Broom sighed, “Please, God, let me stay with him, to guard him and guide him. He means so much to me already.”
Lee switched off the listening devices and pressed a button that caused a portion of the paneled wall to slide closed over the window. “Mr. President, I cannot agree with those of my colleagues on the ‘Hellboy’ committee who question Professor Broom’s motives in wanting to keep custody of the child. This truly seems a case of genuine affection and the child seems happy enough with him.”
“I agree,” President Roosevelt said, as he wheeled his chair back behind the large desk in the room. “Please go and conduct Professor Broom in to see me; I need to see this interesting pair for myself.”
When Lee stepped out into the antechamber, he found Trevor Broom had a squirming Hellboy lying on top of a blanket he had placed on a small table in the room. He looked up from the diaper he was changing, “I’m afraid I’m still not very good at this. But needs must when the devil drives.” He grinned at his own joke.
Lee grinned back, “I’d help you if I knew anything about this stuff, Professor. So tell me, is it really Hell this creature hails from? I…”
A sudden squeal from Hellboy, who Broom had just inadvertently stuck with a safety pin, interrupted what else Lee was going to say. Finishing with the diaper, Broom picked up the crying Hellboy and jogged him up and down in his arms.
“Shhhh, Son, Father’s sorry he did that.” Digging around in the bag the diaper and blanket had come out of, Broom retrieved another Baby Ruth candy bar. Hellboy immediately stopped crying when he was given the chocolate to eat.
Before they walked into the office to meet with President Roosevelt, Broom turned to Lee. “I neither know exactly where he is from, nor do I care. As far as I am concerned he is nothing more or less than a child who needs love and care. I can’t say ‘Hellboy’ is the best name he could have been saddled with, but I would prefer that name to him being called a ‘creature’. If we must work together, please remember this.”
Trevor Broom was not completely satisfied with the outcome of this meeting. Certainly the president and Lee were both kind and concerned; but Broom wondered what would ever happen if his own judgment as to the handling of Hellboy ever conflicted with that of his superiors. In his own mind and heart, he would love to promise this unique being he would never be treated merely as property. However, Trevor Broom hated making promises he might not be able to keep.
Returning with the child to the secret base in Virginia where they were currently staying, Broom awaited news of where they were to be more permanently assigned.
A Secret Military Base in New Mexico
It was late evening on July 3rd, 1945 when Trevor Broom, Hellboy, and Broom’s assistant stumbled wearily into the bungalow that had been constructed on the military base to accommodate them. Insisting Paul go straight off to bed rather than starting to unpack their belongings, Broom took Hellboy into bed with him not wanting him to sleep alone his first night in this strange place.
The next morning, Paul arose early and started unpacking the boxes of books that had been delivered to the office in Broom’s new dwelling. Later that morning, he checked on Broom and Hellboy, finding they were still fast asleep. Deciding not to wake them, Paul returned to unpacking the books.
Suddenly there was a series of small explosions. Paul went out of the office as he heard this noise. Carrying a grunting and squealing Hellboy, Trevor Broom stumbled out of his bedroom still half asleep. “Good God, Paul, what is this noise? Are we under attack?”
Paul couldn’t help grinning, “Certainly not, Professor. I’m sorry; I was so tired last night I completely forgot today would be the Fourth of July. If I had remembered, I would have warned you.”
“Fourth of July? Oh, Independence Day,” Broom replied, as another small flurry of firecrackers went off, “Certainly every bit as noisy as our English Guy Fawkes Day. Will they actually shoot off larger fireworks here later?”
“It is my understanding there are quite a few complete families who reside on the base, Professor. I’m pretty sure the residents will be permitted to shoot off smaller fireworks. I believe we are far enough off from the surrounding populated areas not to have this noticed; but I doubt they will be shooting off anything larger.”
Even though Broom had met General Norton Ricker the evening before, he thought it might be good to re-introduce himself and Hellboy as soon as they had washed and eaten. Hellboy was a lot calmer than he had been earlier and was now more curious than startled by the occasional pops and small explosions.
General Ricker apologized profusely for neglecting to warn Broom of the noisy holiday celebrations. “I assure you the fireworks permitted to be shot off will be quite small. We are supposed to be a secret base, after all. The residents here are planning a small picnic supper around 6:00pm and have been informed of the arrival of our latest ‘unique’ child; you are more than welcome to attend.”
“No, thank you, General. You may be used to ‘unique’ beings here on this base, but I’m afraid my son is more ‘unique’ than most. I would prefer to introduce him to the others more slowly.” Broom smiled slightly when he noted General Ricker trying to hide his surprise at Hellboy referred to as his ‘son’.
Recovering quickly, General Ricker merely went on to mention that after dusk the closest populated place to the base would be shooting off fireworks. “It should be possible to see them if you climb onto the roof of your bungalow.”
“Thank you for the information, General. Even though I will not be attending the picnic, I believe I will come out and fetch some food from it. I am desperately trying to introduce Hellboy to new foods, but it has been difficult. He may be attracted to the kinds of foods you are serving.”
Hellboy, who had been quietly sitting in Broom’s lap during most of their conversation, climbed down and surprised General Ricker by walking over to him and climbing up into his lap. Ricker found that he more and more liked Hellboy and hoped his relationship with the child would be a good one.
He stood up from his seat and carried Hellboy back to Broom. “One thing further, Professor. Even though there is a kitchen installed for your use in the bungalow, do not hesitate to send for meals from the base mess hall. The food’s really not that bad and you may find it convenient if you’re not used to doing your own cooking or find yourself too busy to do so.”
Thanking General Ricker for the use of the base mess hall, Broom returned to his bungalow and placed Hellboy down for a nap in his own bedroom. Going to his office, he helped Paul finish up the unpacking. Later he went out and fetched hamburgers, hotdogs, corn-on-the-cob, and baked beans from the picnic for their supper. Hellboy loved the hotdogs, but refused to try to eat anything else.
Broom discovered that his bungalow had an attic storage space with a trap door that led out onto the flat surface of the roof. General Ricker had been correct that they could see distant fireworks from that vantage point. They were far enough away that the sound of the explosions was quite faint. Without the noise to startle him, Hellboy was more than fascinated with the show of light and color.
Hellboy had become comfortable enough, that Broom was not concerned with putting him to sleep that night in his own room. The child was so exhausted he fell asleep right away.
Broom, as tired as he himself still was, had difficulty falling asleep that night. ‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’; this was the operative phrase he recalled from the Declaration of Independence. How much of that would ever pertain to this child he came to love more and more? He feared none.
Hope everyone is having a great Fourth of July, even if you're not American. Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome.
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