Chapter 1: The Beginning of Trouble
Disclaimer: Hellboy characters do not belong to me. However, Erica Schwarz, Anna, David, Jake, the vampire, the undertaker, and the plot that isn't from the movie is mine.
Author's Notes: A huge thank you to all the people that reviewed the last two chapters of A Shadow to a Heart! To those of you who didn't review, at least I know you read it by the number of hits it got. Anyways, here's the long awaited first chapter of the sequel to A Shadow to a Heart. If you haven't read that story, I suggest you do so because though I will briefly explain things, this will make a whole heck of a lot more sense if you know the characters and events I'm talking about. In this chapter Erica and the BPRD team are going on a little adventure, hehe, before I jump into the movie plot. And of course I will be serving up a bit of humor in here as well! Rated PG-13 for violence, mild language, etc. As always here are the German to English translations: 'Ja' is yes, 'Nein' is no, 'Fräulein' is Miss, and 'Auf Wiedersehen' is goodbye. Enjoy the first chapter!
Scorponis: Or did you change it to thispennameisdead? Great to know you enjoyed the last chapter of A Shadow to a Heart and the title I chose for this story, I hope to see you reviewing this too!
amyltrer: Here's the sequel! Kroenen is nice when he's drunk? What do you mean by that? Hmm…perhaps there's room for him to be drunk in this story too…
Psycho Llama: You think A Shadow to a Heart is the best Hellboy one? cries in happiness Thank you so much! You're so sweet! I will definitely write to keep my story that way! And you're another person that likes it when Kroenen is drunk, perhaps I'll have to put that in this story too.
Gestalt: Here's part two. And of course Erica and Kroenen won't stay mad at each other forever!
iluvrocknroll: The long awaited sequel is finally here!
"Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light."—Dorothy Thompson
October, Present Day
A Village in Transylvania, Romania
Close to Midnight
A small group of children stood on the rough dirt path that led to their village, all of them huddled together in the yellow glow of a few torches. Most of the girls were wearing dresses and the boys were in shirts and pants. Nearly all of the children were barefoot, since it was hard to sneak out of the house while wearing shoes. However, a lot of them were beginning to wish they had thought to bring their shoes with them, the Transylvanian autumn nights were very chilly.
The two oldest among the group were a thirteen year old boy and girl, the youngest was a seven year old girl.
"Everybody here?" asked the oldest boy, squinting at the excited faces around him. His name was Jake
"Yeah." came the general response. The littlest girl yawned and sleepily clutched her favorite stuffed bear to her chest.
"I just hope we don't get caught," said the oldest girl, Anna, "My mother would kill me! You know how all the adults are: 'don't go out after night fall'." She put her hands on her hips, imitating her mother. The children giggled, though a lot of them looked a little worried about how much trouble they would be in if they got caught.
"Well come on, let's go see if all those rumors about monsters are true," said Jake, "That's if you all aren't scaredy cats!"
Instantly the children's faces became bold and they stood up straighter, none of them wanted to be seen as cowards. Even the littlest girl's eyes glittered with bravery and the thrill of deliberately disobeying her parent's rules.
"Then on to the castle!" one of the boys, named David, announced loudly. He struck a noble pose.
The children laughed and shushed him at the same time and then started down the path, their bare feet making a soft pitter-patter sound as they walked down the cold dirt road.
It was a pitch black night, there was no light from the moon or stars to guide the children, and they could just barely make out the silhouettes of trees and the edges of the fields that surrounded their rural village for as far as the eye could see. As soon as the village had disappeared in the darkness behind them everyone made sure to stay in the small circle of light cast by the torches, even the smaller children ran to catch up when they began to fall behind the rest of the group. The circle of torchlight was like a little haven or oasis, everything outside of it looked strange and frightening in the dark. The wind blew through the gnarled branches of the trees and rustled eerily through the dry leaves and the crops in the fields on either side of the narrow path. The children huddled closer together but continued to press forward, laughing and chatting, none of them wanted to look like a coward.
The longer they walked the more unpleasant the journey became: children tripped and scraped their bare feet on the rocks of the dirt road. Freak gusts of wind caused the torches to gutter and sometimes almost blew them out. When that happened the smaller children squealed, enjoying their fear. And on top of everything else it was cold. The children hugged their arms around themselves or rubbed their hands together and blew on them in an effort to keep warm. Some of them complained at intervals that their bare feet felt numb.
The children passed the end of their village's fields. Now, instead of there being fields on either side of the path, there was a desolate expanse of grass that stretched off into the distance, occasionally interrupted by a few leafless and twisted trees or clumps long brown grass.
Just when the novelty of the situation was beginning to wear off and children were starting to slow down and beginning to think their adventure wasn't such a great idea, they were there. From where they stood on the road they suddenly spotted the dark outline of the old castle and the hill it sat on standing a darker ebony against the black night sky and the mountains behind it. The castle was less than a quarter of a mile from where they stood. As if a spell had been cast on them, all of the children fell silent and stood staring at the empty windows and ruined battlements. The castle had a frightening and foreboding air about it, made all the more menacing by the ghost stories and rumors of vampires and monsters that were said to live there.
The cold, biting wind howled through the branches of a twisted tree and the flames of the torches crackled as they guttered and flared. The children unconsciously huddled closer together and stared wide eyed at the castle, suddenly very sure that they shouldn't have come. Secretly each of them longed to be back in his or her warm bed instead of standing barefoot in the cold near a haunted castle. The children's eyes were bright with unspoken fear. All of them were afraid of the castle but they were also afraid of the social humiliation they would have to face if they were the first to admit they were scared and wanted to go home. The children murmured uneasily to each other, and then suddenly, one of the boys realized that someone was missing.
"Where's Jake?" asked David.
Everyone looked around, but Jake was nowhere in sight. Nervous murmurs drifted through the group.
The children screamed shrilly, screaming all the louder because everyone else was. Anna whirled around towards the sound and saw Jake, laughing hysterically beside the tree he had been hiding behind.
"Calm down!" Anna ordered the other children. She turned on Jake angrily, "Jake, that wasn't funny, you scared us half to death!"
"I know! And you should have seen the look on you face!"
Anna was just about to yell at him, when a strong gust wind blew out one of their torches. Immediately the children's shrieking and squealing started up again.
"Shut up," said David, "If there are any monsters out here, then they'll know exactly where we are!"
"Speaking of monsters," said Jake, grinning, "Why don't we go up to the castle and look in the windows? Or maybe even go inside?" He raised his arms over his head, curled his fingers into claw-like shapes, rolled his eyes back in his head, and stuck out his tongue, pretending to be a monster. There were a few half-hearted chuckles at his antics.
"Jake, I don't want to go to the castle," David said, visibly shivering as he hugged himself, "It's cold, and anyway, we should be careful. All those rumors about vampires haunting this place have to be based on something. And I don't want to get killed."
"Oh, are you a scaredy cat?" asked Jake mockingly, "I dare you to go up to the castle and knock on the door!"
"Aaaaaarrrooooooooooooooo!" A wolf howled in the distance, startling the children. As if the howl had been some sort of signal, the castle and gnarled trees suddenly seemed more menacing to the girls and boys.
"We should go home before the other torches go out. It would be a long walk back in the dark without them." said Anna, coming to David's rescue. The other children nodded their consent, and the littlest girl clutched her teddy bear harder, her eyes bright with unshed and frightened tears. Even Jake looked shaken.
"All right, let's go back." Jake agreed.
They turned their backs on the crumbling castle and silently started back down the dirt path that led to the village. They walked much faster then they had on the way there, some of the children almost running. They had only been walking for a few moments when they heard another wolf howl. The children stopped walking and gazed nervously out over the fields that were on either side of the path. That howl had been much closer to them then the last one. But they didn't see anything except wheat and other crops, though the wind blowing through the ranks of wheat whipped them around in a way that made it seem like some beast was running through the fields towards them. Some of the children laughed nervously, but most were silent. The little girl with the teddy bear grabbed the edge of Anna's skirt with a grubby hand and held on tightly.
"Well, nothing there," David said, forcing a smile onto his face. Despite the confidence in his voice his eyes darted back to anxiously survey the landscape around them.
Another wolf howled and the children jumped a little, drawing closer together for protection. David and Jake instinctively picked up branches lying on the dirt road and held them like weapons. The other children took the cue and did the same, picking up sticks and rocks, all of them staying inside the yellow glow of the flickering torchlight. The fire gave them a sense of safety. But if that light went out…!
As if some evil spirit had sensed their plight and delighted in making them even more miserable and afraid, the wind sprang up again. It whipped the tops of the nearly leafless trees and blew the girls' skirts and long hair around. The torches guttered fitfully, seeming determined not to leave the children in darkness. The children's bright eyes stared silently at the torches, willing them not to go out, praying they wouldn't go out. The torches started to burn more clearly, but then the angel watching over the children seemed to lose the battle against the evil will and malice surrounding the children in the night. The torches sputtered, flickered—and went out, plunging them into darkness.
This time there was no screaming, only a dead silence that was somehow even more terrible, like the silence surrounding a condemned man or the dead quiet of a tomb. Anna sensed the other children's panic beneath the silence and eerie sound of the wind.
"As long as we stay together and stay calm, we'll be fine." she said, breaking the silence, "We all know the way back—just follow the road, there's no turns or anything. If it gets too dark we can feel the path with our bare feet."
The children started forward uncertainly, all of them on the alert and as solemn and serious as if they were more than twice their ages. They held each other's hands, arms, and shoulders in the darkness so they wouldn't lose each other. Each child left one of their hands free to hold onto their primitive stick or stone weapons.
The children passed field after field, feeling their way in the dark. Each field and tree they passed gave them a strand of hope that they all clung to desperately. The smothering darkness pressed in from all sides. The children's hearts pounded with fear as their imaginations ran wild with images of monsters and demons waiting in the dark and reaching out with clawed hands to grab them. The wolves howled in the distance, the howls growing closer and closer, spurring the children to walk faster and faster until they were nearly sprinting. They had been traveling in this fashion for what felt like an eternity when a sharp sound stopped them all in their tracks.
A dry twig broke somewhere in the darkness around them—something had stepped on it. And it was very, very close to them. The children shot fearful looks at each other, their thoughts written clearly on their faces. Was it the wolves?
The girl with the teddy bear whimpered, on the verge of tears. Anna was in the act of bending down to pick her up, when it happened: something as large and as heavy as a man launched into their midst, bowling the children in all directions—
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!" A child's panicked scream rang through the night—
—something ran into Anna, knocking her to the ground beside the littlest girl—there was the sound of tearing cloth as the edge of Anna's dress ripped—people stepped on her—more screams—everything was utter chaos in the darkness— Anna scrambled to her feet—
"Oh my God!" shrieked Jake from somewhere in the dark, "It's a vampire! Run! Run back to the village—the church—!"
His voice was cut off abruptly and there was the horrible, stomach turning crunch of bones being broken. Anna instinctively knew Jake wasn't joking this time. Her heart pounded so loudly in her chest that it nearly drowned out the screams around her. Barely thinking, she reached down and grabbed the little girl clutching her teddy bear. The girl screamed in terror, thinking the vampire had her. Anna hushed her and put the girl on her back piggyback style, but she only held onto the girl with her left arm. With her right Anna felt through the darkness and grabbed the arm of the next child that ran into her. The boy clutched her hand in a grip that was so tight it was painful. Anna immediately took off running toward the village, her bare feet pounding loudly against the dirt road as she ran. She heard the sound of other feet running after her and could only pray they belonged to the other children. She dashed headlong through the darkness, braches scraping her face, rocks tripping her as she ran, the pebbles on the road lacerating her feet. But she would not stop. To stop would mean death.
Screams echoed through the darkness behind her, but she didn't stop. The number of running footsteps behind her grew less and less, terrifying her even more. She knew that the vampire was pursuing them—she spotted the dim lights of the village ahead of her and ran faster, faster toward safety, almost dragging the little boy as she ran—she was almost to the village when the boy's hand was ripped violently from her grasp. Anna gasped in shock and almost stopped, her pounding heart abruptly frozen with fear. Had the boy tripped or had the vampire grabbed him? She didn't know the answer but her stomach clenched so hard in fear that she thought she was going to throw up—she didn't dare to turn and look behind her—panic drove her to sprint recklessly down the road, leaping over branches and rocks—she kept running, trying to block out the screams behind her—were they real or in her head?—Please let this be a nightmare, she prayed—she was in the village, she ran straight for the church steps, holding tightly to the little girl on her back. The church would be safe, a vampire couldn't go in there—she reached the steps and started up them—she tripped on the hem of her dress, which had been torn to the point that it dragged the ground—the little girl screamed piercingly, warning Anna that the vampire was right behind them—driven by panic Anna scrambled to her feet and climbed the last steps. Inches away from safety she reached for the door handle—her sweaty hands slipped on the metal, but she got the latch open—the door opened a few inches, the old hinges reluctant to open—the little girl on Anna's back screamed harshly in absolute terror—the church door wouldn't open enough for them to get through—!
No, Anna thought, not enough for ME to get through!
Anna didn't think, she simply acted. She swung the little girl off her back and shoved her through the small opening and into the safety of the church. Anna grasped the door handle and desperately tried to yank the door open further—she paused as she glimpsed the little girl though the cracked open door. The little girl was sitting on the floor, her eyes as big as saucers and her tiny mouth hanging open in a silent scream. The girl was staring in terror at something that was behind Anna—a pair of ice cold hands seized Anna's shoulders—she kicked the church door shut to keep the little girl safe—the hands on her shoulders spun her around roughly—
Anna froze in fear as she stared into a pale face framed with long, though neat, black hair. A pair of startling, electric blue eyes looked back at her. The vampire grinned at her, revealing his two long fangs. Anna tried desperately to scream but only a small croaking sound escaped from her lips.
"One shouldn't wander after nightfall," the vampire said admonishingly, "One might find that their curiosity will prove fatal. As it will in your case. So sorry, Fräulein. Pleasant nightmares!"
The last thing Anna felt was the two fangs sinking into her neck—and then oblivion.
Inside the church the little girl sat on the floor, staring at the closed doors. Tears trickled down her cheeks. "Anna?" she whimpered softly. There was no answer. "Anna?" she asked anxiously, her voice louder.
The little girl clutched her teddy bear and buried her face in his fur as she sobbed hysterically. She heard a soft 'thump' from outside the doors and her head jerked up sharply at the sound. She stared at the doors, her little heart hammering in her chest, but no sounds followed the first. The girl looked around eyeing the shadowed church with fear. The ancient pipe organ towered above her and the wooden church pews were cloaked in deep darkness. Even the saints on the stained glass windows had a menacing look.
"Anna." She whispered. The girl could hear herself gasping for breath in the silence.
On a sudden impulse the little girl scrambled to her feet, and shooting nervous looks at the shadowed pews, ran down the aisle, her bare feet making a soft pitter patter sound against the wooden floorboards. She awkwardly stumbled up the steps that were too high for her short legs and then ran up to the altar. She sat down with her back against it and curled up in a ball, hugging her teddy bear and leaning her tearstained face on her knees.
"Anna." She whimpered.
But Anna wasn't coming back.
October, Present Day
A Private Airplane Belonging to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense
It was dark. She lay in the mud, the cold rain falling on her upturned face as she gasped shallowly for breath. The wound in her left shoulder felt like a red hot poker had been shoved through it instead of the cold blade that had created the wound. Her blood was all over her SS uniform and was steadily dripping down and creating a red puddle around her.
A soft ticking sound reached her ears. It sounded like a clock that was broken, like the gears were grinding together. Oh no, Kroenen is here, she thought, He's alive, he's going to kill me for what I've done— The spindly, ragged figure crawled over to her and knelt beside her, his metal mask glinting as lighting flashed overhead. His torso was covered in wounds and white dust was pouring out of them as well as from the ruin that had been his left hand.
"I won't kill you," he whispered, "Not now. But I won't save you either. I can't take you back with us. Ilsa would kill you for what you've done." He thought for a moment. "In fact, I might kill you if I took you with me—but I might not. It's better for you to stay here. You have a better chance of surviving with your new friends."
His voice was bitter as he finished his sentence.
"Kroenen—" Erica choked out, her voice barely above a whisper, "Forgive me. I didn't—I couldn't—"
An expression of frustration crossed her face as she struggled to make her tongue and mouth obey her. But it was as if they belonged to another person—so she gave up and fell silent.
Kroenen reached into one of his pockets and pulled out something that sparkled in the dim light. "Here," he said contemptuously, pressing her silver crucifix into her hand, "You'll need this. God can't save you, Erica. He can't save you—not from me."
Her fingers curled around the broken chain of her necklace.
"No one and nothing can save you from me." Kroenen said.
"I know." Erica answered, forcing the words out. Her voice was barely audible. A tear ran down her cheek.
"I will find you. I'll find you no matter where you go." Kroenen whispered softly. "I'll find you, my Angel of Death."
Erica couldn't tell from the tone in his voice whether he was trying to threaten her or comfort her. She wasn't even sure if he knew.
Kroenen gently brushed the long, wet strands of hair away from her pale face and then wiped away the tears and raindrops that dotted her cheeks. The gesture was both comforting and somehow harsh. It was very strange, considering that a few minutes ago he had been trying to kill her. Erica had no energy to try to resist, so she let him do it, absently wondering if the gesture was his way of silently saying 'I'm sorry'. She felt his fingers trail over the 'T' shaped bloody gash he had cut into her left cheek and she flinched in pain. She felt his fingers stiffen as if anger was welling up in him again.
"The deepest pit of Hell is reserved for betrayers, Erica," Kroenen murmured, gently tracing around the 'T' with his fingers, "You may have tried to escape us, you may have tried to escape Hell, but your actions have condemned you to the fiery pit. But don't worry, at least you'll have us there for company. Heaven would be so lonely for you, would it not?"
He gazed down at her as he heard the Allied soldiers beginning to move again.
"Auf Wiedersehen," he whispered to her as he stood up, "And remember, I'll find you, though Heaven bar the way!"
He melted into the shadows, disappearing into the rain and darkness, leaving her to her fate at the hands of the Allied soldiers—
Everything went black and suddenly Grigory was staring at her with his empty eye sockets. He was yelling at her, his face flushed with his fury.
"Did you think I would let you go so easily? Traitor! You can never escape! You broke a pact sealed in blood! You belong to us! Our blood is in your veins, just as yours is in ours! You can never escape us! Your oath was made in blood, and you know that breaking it can only be paid by spilling all of your life's blood! The Ogdru Jahad will never rest until you are dead!" he yelled. His voice echoed horribly in the blackness around them and she cowered in fear—
She was in the dining hall of a mansion, standing on the stairs that led up to the foyer. Twenty or more elegantly dressed guests were seated at the table below her. A dead man lay on the floor near a row of windows.
"Murderer!" yelled a man she recognized as Hayner. He jumped to his feet.
Hayner? No, she thought, he's dead, I killed him myself.
"Guilty as charged," Erica heard herself say. She made a sweeping bow, "But that should hardly come as a surprise to you fine ladies and gentlemen. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be leaving, Kroenen requested that I return before midnight—"
A dark cold night. A battle was raging around her. She was soaking wet, and she was fighting for her life. She backed away from Kroenen but he kept on coming, his blades slicing towards her stomach and neck.
"TRAITOR!" he yelled, "DAMN YOU! NOW YOU WILL PAY FOR YOU TREACHERY!"
He pinned her against a stone wall and she watched frozen with horror as one of his blades rushed at her in a blur of silver that was aimed straight at her heart—
Erica woke up, her head still ringing with the clash of the battle in her dreams. Her heart was pounding in her chest and one of her hands was griping the silver cross on her necklace so hard that the metal was biting into her palm. Without opening her eyes she forced herself to calm down. It was only a dream, she thought, All of that happened in the past. It was only a dream. Erica was used to having nightmares about her past—at least, she was used to the thought that she would have them, no matter how long she had them the dreams about her past still scared her.
She slowly opened her grey eyes and discovered that she had slumped sideways in her airline seat and she was leaning against the wall. The small airplane window was a few inches from her face, offering a beautiful view of the sky outside. She gazed out the window, aware of the pleasant chatter of her friends in the background. Slowly, she released her death grip on her necklace, which just happened to have been the same silver crucifix necklace that had been in her nightmare. She turned slightly in her seat and saw Abe, Hellboy, and Agent Clay sitting around a crate and talking. Liz wasn't there because she had quit again a few weeks ago. Without Liz there was more work for everyone else, but obviously the others weren't as tired as Erica since they hadn't fallen asleep. I can't believe they didn't, she thought, the BPRD has been so busy this month. But that's typical of October because of Halloween. At least I don't have to worry about getting bored. Erica smiled and went back to looking out the window of the plane.
The plane was surrounded by huge mountains of towering white clouds. The rising sun was just peeking over the edge of the layer of clouds and it was casting breathtaking stains of orange, yellow, and hot pink over the white fluffy clouds. It was sort of like being in a water color painting of Heaven. Erica smiled wryly at the thought, We're not exactly the sort of people you would expect to meet in Heaven: a demon, a fish-man, and me, the ex-Nazi.
"Erica, since you're awake, would you care to join us?" Abe asked, his voice drifting over to her.
"The psychic strikes again," she muttered. Her voice had a slight German accent. She smiled cheerfully as she stood up and walked over to them, taking a seat in an empty folding chair next to Hellboy.
"Hello sleepyhead." Hellboy grinned. He lifted a massive coffee cup and drained most of the contents of the mug. "Want some?" he asked, offering her the enormous coffee mug while wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his trench coat.
"Nein." she replied.
The red demon laughed. "Who would think that after all these years you'd still be speakin' German?"
She shrugged. "It just happens. Especially if something reminds me of—well, then."
"WWII you mean." Agent Clay said.
She nodded slowly.
Abe quietly watched her, picking up on her thoughts and movements. Erica appeared to be a fairly pretty twenty two year old, however, she was actually far older. She was really eighty two thanks to the gift of immortality and youth that Grigory Rasputin had given to her before she had betrayed him. The gift made her invulnerable to everything except a violent death. Erica was tall for a woman and she had brown hair a few inches longer than shoulder length. She was dressed head to toe in black: black knee-high boots, black pants, a black v-necked T-shirt, and a black trench coat with the BPRD's symbol on the shoulder of the left sleeve. Various pieces of equipment were clipped to her belt, including daggers, bullets, and a small handgun. A pair of long blades called baton swords were strapped to her upper legs. Erica liked blades, and her baton swords were by far her favorite weapons. A silver cross hung on a chain around her neck, she had worn it since WWII. Her grey eyes flicked around rapidly, just above the crooked, slash like 'T' shaped scar on her left cheek. It was the story behind how she got that scar that was bothering her right now, Abe could tell she was vaguely agitated by her nightmare.
"You had that dream again," Abe observed, his respirator bubbling faintly as he breathed, "About your past."
"Ja. It's nothing," she lied, trying to cover up her uneasiness, "It was just a dream. Not a vision. Nothing new."
Erica had the ability to see the future, and had since she was about sixteen. Her abilities had scared her at first, and that had made her a vulnerable target for the Thule Occult Society. Karl Kroenen and Ilsa Haupstien had quickly convinced her to join the Nazis and Thule Society in return for teaching her how to control her visions. Everything had gone as planned for six years: as they had promised, Ilsa and Kroenen had taught her to see into the future, the present, and sometimes the past. In return she had told them how to win future battles against the Allied Forces and had assisted Kroenen in murdering anyone who got in the way of the Nazis or the Thule Society. She had also willingly worked on Rasputin's Project Ragnarok—willingly, that is, until October 1944, when she had another vision that changed her perspective of Project Ragnarok and the Thule Society. Ultimately she had betrayed them—she had secretly sent an anonymous letter to the Allied Forces informing them of the Nazi's plans. On October 9, 1944, when the Allied Forces and the Nazis had clashed in the ruins of Trondham Abbey, she had turned on her teacher and friend, Karl Kroenen, and shot him in the back. That one shot had revealed her for what she was: a traitor. She and Kroenen had fought and he had stabbed her in the left shoulder, nearly killing her. In the end Kroenen, for reasons known only to himself, had disobeyed the laws of the Thule Society and spared her life. He had cut a 'T' into her left cheek shortly before he and Ilsa escaped from the Allied soldiers. The 'T' stood for traitor and meant that he intended to find her again—and sacrifice her to the Ogdru Jahad, destroying her soul in the process.
It was these events that she had been dreaming about.
Erica forced her nightmare to the back of her head. There were more important and pressing things to deal with, like where they were going right now.
"So, since you all have had so much time to talk, why don't one of you explain in detail exactly where we're going and what monster we're after this time." Erica suggested.
"Transylvania. A vampire." Agent Clay said, sliding a folder across the crate to her.
"A vampire in Transylvania. How unoriginal," she said as she opened the folder and leafed through the contents while Clay rambled on in the background.
"A group of children were out at night wandering around and were attacked by a vampire. Most of them got away, but three of them didn't. You can see the puncture marks on their necks in the photos. Oh, and something interesting. All three of the victim's necks were broken."
Erica grimaced at little when she found the pictures. The first was of a thirteen year old boy and was labeled with the name Jake. His head was lying at an odd angle. Erica could tell his neck had been broken. There was a photo of another young boy whose skin was freakishly pale due to blood loss. The other photo was of a thirteen year old girl name Anna.
"That girl, Anna, she was on the steps of a church when the vampire got her. She saved the life of one of the other girls, though." said Clay.
"Are you sure this was a vampire and not something trying to make it look like it was?" Erica asked, holding up the pictures, "It's not typical for vampires to abuse the bodies of their victims."
"The puncture marks on the children's necks match those of other vampire victims. However, the bodies were only drained of some blood, not all of it," said Abe, "That in itself is unusual. If it was a vampire, it didn't attack them for food."
"Probably revenge or somethin'," Hellboy said, as he lit one of his cigars, "Or maybe vampy just went crazy one night."
"Vampy?" Erica asked, raising an eyebrow, "You've nicknamed that thing already?"
Clay interrupted to get them back on track. "The children weren't the only victims. Recently the vampire has attacked two adults. One woman was bitten and her neck was broken. Another man sustained severe wounds. He died a few hours after he was found."
"What's the plan?" asked Erica.
"Go by truck to an area outside the village, send some Agents to talk to the villagers, and then search the area. There's a report of an abandoned castle about a mile or so from the village. The children were attacked near there. It's a likely place to start searching."
"Is it possible the vampire was one of the villagers?" Erica asked.
"No," Abe said, "The report we received mentioned that the children who survived the attack didn't recognize the vampire as anyone they had seen before."
"What's the area like?"
"Rural. Fields. The village is very isolated, the nearest village to it is a good thirty miles away. And getting to the village won't be pleasant. The only road there is nothing but dirt and rocks." Clay informed her.
"Sounds like fun." Erica said.
"Yes, to those of us who don't have to ride in crates in the back of trucks." muttered Abe.
"Yeah, better dress warm Blue," Hellboy said, "Its chilly there. We wouldn't want you turning any bluer with frostbite."
"Very funny." Abe said, though he smiled a little.
October, Present Day
"Ow! Damn it! Are we there yet?" Hellboy demanded into his headset as he hit his head on the top of the crate for the umpteenth time. Hellboy hated being shut up in crates for long drives, especially when he was being bounced around like a cart full of potatoes. Mmm potatoes, he thought, I could go for some potatoes. Or potato chips. I'm hungry.
Erica was in the passenger's seat of the truck Hellboy's crate was on. She smiled as the irate demon's voice filled the space. "Almost," she assured him.
"Yeah, well almost isn't comin' soon enough. Are we there yet?"
Erica didn't answer him. She grinned, thinking he sounded for all the world like a little kid whose family was driving to their vacation spot.
A few minutes passed, made even longer by the bouncing and jostling as the truck bumped along the narrow dirt road. There was another truck in front and behind the one Erica was in, and those trucks were carrying equipment and the other agents assigned to this mission. The scenery rolled by, mile after mile of rolling hills and fields dotted by trees dressed in their autumn colors. The background was taken up by a chain of blue mountains that continued into the distance as far as the eye could see. By the light of day it didn't look so bad, but Erica knew from experience how quickly things could become frightening once the sun went down.
Erica hadn't heard anything from Abe from a while, so she radioed him.
"How are you, Blue?" she asked.
"Cold." said Abe's voice on the transmitter.
Erica grinned, remembering the boots, gloves, thick coat, scarf, and hat Abe had put on in addition to his wet suit and collar. If she had put all that on she would have been roasting. As it was, she was very comfortable in the autumn weather in her trench coat and black T-shirt.
Abe's voice interrupted. "You may be comfortable, but remembered which of us is in a crate and which of us is in a nice toasty truck cabin. I propose we switch places on the way back."
"Abe, you know you can't ride in here because people will see you," Erica said, "And I wouldn't like traveling in a crate."
"Do you think I do?"
Just then the truck in front of them slammed on the breaks, meaning that the agent driving their truck also slammed on the breaks so fast that Erica gasped.
"Ow!" Hellboy howled over the transmitter. This was followed by a long string of profanity.
Abe was more subdued. "Next time, I'm driving, I don't care what they say." he muttered over the radio.
The trucks turned off the road into a field of nothing but grass and a few trees. They came to a halt and everyone quickly piled out of the vehicles. Erica got out and stretched as two agents hurried around to the back of the trucks to let Abe and Hellboy out of their crates.
"This looks like a good spot," Agent Clay observed, scanning the landscape, "Far enough away from the village to prevent people getting curious about us, but near enough for getting back and forth from the village quickly."
"What about lunch?" asked Hellboy, walking over to them, his stomach grumbling, "I'm hungry."
"You're always hungry." Erica replied.
Agent Clay continued, gesturing around at different parts of the landscape. "We'll split up into three groups. Two large and one small. One large group will go to the village to gather information, the other large one will scout out the countryside for other sites of interest, including the castle. The small group will stay behind to make lunch, and we can all eat when we get back."
Hellboy nodded. "Abe, you go with some agents to the village. Clay, you and I'll go 'scouting' with some other agents, I don't think the villagers could handle me right now. At least Abe can manage to pass for human if he wears a lot of clothes."
"And me?" asked Erica.
"Uh, I guess you get stuck cookin'." said Hellboy with a grin on his face.
"Not if you want anything edible I'm not!" she threatened.
An expression of mock terror crossed Hellboy's face. "In that case we'll leave Agent Moss with you, he can cook. God only knows what burned stuff we'd be eatin' if we left it up to you, Erica."
"Yes, I find it quite interesting that in the past sixty years at the BPRD you haven't learned to cook anything but rotten eggs, which I'll admit are delicious." said Abe. He was standing over by the back of one of the trucks and adjusting his clothes to hide as much of his blue skin and face as possible.
"Cook? All she does is leave them in the back of the fridge and forget about them!" Hellboy said, "How can you screw that up?"
Erica pretended to be offended and shoved Hellboy in retaliation. Of course she got nowhere, Hellboy didn't even move.
"Fine, I'll stay here and watch the trucks and get out everything we have on vampires," she said.
"Whatever you do don't touch any of the food—wait, with your track record, don't even go near it!" Hellboy said jokingly.
Erica rolled her eyes. Hellboy, Abe, and the agents started down the dirt road, leaving her behind with Agent Moss.
"Bye! Have fun!" she called after them, "And leave some monsters for me, okay?"
Abe and the group of agents walked into the small village. The village looked ageless, like it had been there forever as part of the landscape. The slightly ramshackle houses had been added onto over the years, giving them a wandering appearance. From where Abe stood in the village square he could see crosses and strings of garlic hung in every window and doorway in an effort to keep out any vampires.
The weather-beaten villagers stared at their visitors a bit mistrustfully, but they slowly trickled over until a large group of all ages surrounded Abe and the agents. The agents started talking to the villagers as Abe eyed a few small children who were openly gawking at him, their mouths open so far that you could see a few were missing one or two baby teeth. Just imagine how much they would stare if I wasn't wearing all these clothes, Abe thought as he discreetly scanned the area.
And got his pockets picked every two seconds by curious children.
Thank god I can tell they're doing it, Abe thought as he relieved a small girl of an amulet she had sneakily pulled out of his pocket. Of course, no one was sneaky enough for the psychic fish-man not to notice them.
Abe walked by another group of children who were fiddling with a book on vampires he instantly recognized as belonging to the BPRD. Without bothering to wonder how they had gotten a hold of it, he reached into their midst and plucked the book from their grubby hands.
"Thank you." Abe said to them as he gave the book to a nearby Agent.
A skeletal man stepped into Abe's path. The man was wearing a very beat up top hat and dusty formal clothes that were over a hundred years out of date. He also had long stringy hair and a wilted rose in one of his button holes. The village undertaker, Abe thought as the man smiled crookedly at him.
"Hello sir, you look like an intelligent man." the undertaker said, sweeping off his hat.
Though how you can tell that is a mystery, considering the sunglasses, scarf, and hat I'm wearing, Abe thought.
"I bet you know a good deal when you see one! And I've certainly got a good deal for you! You can buy these two bottles of vampire and werewolf repellent at a low price of thirty dollars." The undertaker shoved what looked like two glass whiskey bottles full of muddy water much closer to Abe then the fish-man liked. In fact, as Abe knew very well, they were whiskey bottles full of muddy water.
"No, thank you." Abe said, polite as ever. He started to turn away, but the undertaker wouldn't have any of that.
"Perhaps I can interest you in several cloves of—"
"No. Thank you." Abe replied firmly.
"No." said Abe distractedly as he retrieved a pen a child had taken from his pocket.
"Perhaps some amulets to protect you from the vampires you're hunting?" the undertaker asked, offering a mess of tangled necklaces with odds and ends hanging off of them. Abe wrinkled what little nose he had in disgust as he realized that the things on the cords were human bones, pieces of god-only-knew-what, dried plants, and things stolen from coffins.
"No. Thank. You." Abe said, his irritation seeping into his voice. "And I would sleep better at night if you would return those things to their coffins."
The undertaker looked shocked for a moment. "How—?" he started to ask, but he quickly recovered and went on, "What about these…?"
But Abe wasn't paying attention, he was trying to discourage another child from picking his pockets. He desperately wanted to scream. He desperately wished Erica had come with him, or that he had been left back at camp with her. With a despondent sigh and a hopeful wish that Erica had brought rotten eggs on the trip, Abe turned to one of the agents.
"Please tell me you got everything you need by talking to these people." Abe said.
The agent looked taken aback for a moment but then shook his head. "No, they all tried to sell me stuff like that nutter you were talking to."
"Did you find out if they buried the people that were killed?"
"No. You should talk to the undertaker about that."
Abe stared at the agent for a moment and then turned to look at the undertaker, who was hocking his wares to several irritated looking agents. Abe sighed and decided to persevere for the sake of rotten eggs and the safety of mankind. Abe repeated this phrase over and over in his head as he walked over to the undertaker. Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind, rotten eggs and the—
"Oh you're back! Did you change your mind?" the undertaker asked, practically jumping on Abe.
Abe eyed the man distastefully. "No. We need to ask you and the villagers some questions about the vampire attacks." Providing they'll all shut up, thought Abe.
"Well I don't know much about it, just what everyone's been gossiping about. I only bury the bodies—clean up after the attacks, if you know what I mean. Speaking of which," the undertaker's eyes lit up and he straightened his battered top hat, "If you're serious about going after vampires, you should purchase coffins and graves in advance so they'll be ready for you."
"No. Thank you." Abe said, a bit faintly.
"Were there any survivors? Of the attacks, I mean." asked one of the agents, coming to Abe's rescue.
"Yes. Two of them are over there. A boy named David and a little girl." The undertaker said, pointing a bony finger at the two children.
Abe started towards the two children. The undertaker ran to keep up with him and had to clutch the brim of his top hat with one hand to keep it from falling off his head.
Now we might be getting somewhere, Abe thought, and then noticed that the undertaker was following him. Abe sighed. Rotten eggs and the safety of mankind, rotten eggs and the safety of mankind, Abe thought.
Author's Notes: Whew! That was a long chapter! I hope you all enjoyed the flashbacks to A Shadow to a Heart in Erica's dream, and now you also know why I decided to title this story 'Though Heaven Bar the Way'. Teehee, please tell me if you liked the humor I put in, it was a lot of fun to write! Please review!