Disclaimer: I don't own Hellboy. Ms. James on the other hand....
Summary: Ms. James is a very strange character to keep around. I gather that. However, there are reasons why. There are also reasons for her being as crazy as she is.
You know, the term 'lost' could never really be applied to those who choose not to be found; the people who crawled into the darkest corner they could find and wouldn't make a squeak, wouldn't answer when you called them, wouldn't eat when they were hungry. Individuals so buried in their feelings and thoughts that even their own needs meant absolutely nothing to them.
Burdened, you could call it; lost perhaps in whatever reality they'd conjured. For Tom, sending out a base wide APB for 'lost' Agent James just didn't seem correct. Manning had long ago learned the importance of dotting and crossing the appropriate letters in his reports and orders, so it was understandable that he felt uncomfortable with the phrasing.
After all, it wasn't as if Ms. James had simply wandered into a quiet section of the base and gotten turned around. No, the woman knew every nook and cranny in the place. She wasn't 'lost'. He would have used 'missing' but as of late staff had been on edge; nervous for reasons unknown and the last thing he needed to do was cause a state of quiet panic. No, lost was a better option. If they found her they'd let him know, and if they didn't, they wouldn't be too worried by it. The woman had a reputation for weird behaviour and it wasn't the first time she'd disappeared on base. But never for this long.
She'd been gone just over twenty four hours; counting from her missed breakfast but he'd a feeling she'd left her room sometime in the night. The base perimeter hadn't been breached and Abe- though he did complain something fierce- confirmed that the wayward woman was still somewhere in the area. Someplace dark. The fish couldn't get anything more specific than that. Helpful as always.
Then there was the BPRD 'councillor', though she was technically a psychiatrist. She helped the staff deal with the psychological problems that came with the job and- much to Manning's displeasure- she was keeping tight lipped about all this. Said something about not all of the staff's problems being monster related…and basically that it was patient confidentiality. A very polite and ethically sound 'piss off' if Tom Manning had to describe it. Knowing Janet Hall, he was shocked she didn't just give him the finger and tell him to 'sing for it', like usual.
The BPRD councillor, what a lovely woman, really, whatever did he do to deserve her?
They'd only a handful of core Agents actively searching for Ms. James. Too keep the situation relatively quiet and disruption to a minimum. Much to Manning's irritation, Hellboy seemed to exact great pleasure in tearing her room apart in the search. It was possible she'd climbed into an unlisted vent, or something concealed behind a shelf or a wardrobe but he didn't need to appear so happy about his handiwork. Manning wasn't the only one displeased. Sherman had kicked her partner's shin so hard he'd left the room limping. She didn't have any love for the woman but even she saw the brutal assault on her meagre possessions, as criminal.
Janet had thrown a fit when she'd found out.
With a final, sharp disapproving look she disappeared, off to do whatever it was that Councillors did in their free time.
Of course, two hours later when Manning had abandoned his own personal search to retire to his office for a stiff drink, he found the resident psychiatrist sitting, comforting a rather pale looking nuisance. Turns out, in their spare time Councillors locate crazy women.
"Do you know how long we've been looking for you? Of all the reckless, inconsiderate…" Manning trailed off with the icy, warning glare that Hall shot him.
"Where were you?" He asked quietly. Any fire he'd had was effectively quenched in the cold waters that masqueraded as a councillor.
The psychiatrist, with a wave of her hand prompted the woman to ignore the question. She cooed softly to James.
"Don't worry about anything. When you're done here, I'll be in my office." She smiled sweetly at the woman but gave Manning a narrow eyed look that spoke volumes as to how he was to conduct his questioning.
He apparently wasn't to upset the woman any more than she'd already been upset.
Manning took a heavy seat and waited till the councillor's footsteps had retreated down the hall.
"Hello, Delores." He sighed. The woman had her red, swollen eyes fixed solidly on her lap. "You want to tell me what this was all about?" He asked as politely as he could.
"I didn't mean to worry you all." Her voice was dry and cracked. Lips chapped and skin pale.
Manning didn't immediately respond. Picking up his phone he contacted his Secretary. "Ann, I need a cup of coffee, no milk, no sugar and one mug of sweet tea, earl grey if we have it." He never looked away from the pitiful sight sitting across from him.
"Dee, don't lie to me. You couldn't care less how much you worry the others." Manning's eyes lifted to the ceiling in revelation. "To be honest, I'm not sure they even were worried." He admitted.
The woman sobbed but recovered her voice quickly.
"I d-didn't mean to worry you." She quickly shot back.
Manning felt his face try and pull itself into a sort of sad smile. She'd actually meant that. As good as she'd become at lying, it was still easy to know that she was telling the truth. That stirred something in him; a feeling of pride and gratitude. This was an Agent that respected him, did what he said without question and never gave him any personal grief. She had a quiet, almost innocent way about her most of the time and though she was extremely unstable, she wasn't all that unpleasant to speak to. You just had to avoid certain topics.
One by one small pieces of a much larger picture fell into place in Manning's head. He cursed himself out loud as he realised something he'd been totally blind to. The psychiatrist knew. She'd all but spelled it out to him. They'd all spent so long dealing with supernatural monsters that they'd forgotten people could be monsters, too.
"I'm not going to fire you." He blurted out immediately.
The woman glanced up from her fidgeting fingers.
"You're not?" She spat out, utterly stunned. Her face almost animated despite the sunken features and bloodshot eyes.
"Despite what the others might think…what you think of yourself, I'm of the opinion that you might be somewhat important."
There was a soft rap on the door and a tall, middle aged, hard faced woman in a suit entered without any prompting. Balancing a tray on one hand she shut the door behind her. Manning offered her his thanks as she set the tea in front of the woman and passed him his coffee. She left without a word; not even a look in Delores' direction.
"I'm not important." Delores James muttered with a certain amount of conviction.
Manning took a tiny sip of molten coffee. The lunch room was a good five minutes across the base and yet his daily caffeine fix was always just a couple of degrees short of melting the cup. That woman never ceased to amaze him. He levelled a stern glare at Delores.
"What happened today? No lies, please." He asked.
The woman looked up into Manning's face.
"I had a nightmare…so I decided to get some air." She whispered.