Jason Voorhees was dead.
When did he die? Was it in 1957, when a young boy fell into a lake and drowned while the camp counselors, who should have been watching him, made love? Was it in 1984, when a young boy named Tommy Jarvis hacked him to pieces with a machete? Or 1988, when the same Tommy Jarvis dumped him in the lake and ran a boat propeller against his skull?
Now the corpse of Jason Voorhees lay at the bottom of Crystal Lake, neither alive nor dead. Its mind had been driven far from any semblance of sanity, or even a human conception of insanity. It craved only the spray of hot blood, the sight of life draining away. And as the corpse lay there, a presence came before it, and spoke.
Once again, it is my duty to claim you. But I find that, as before, I am loathe to end the career of such a wonderfully enthusiastic evangelist of our cause. We have greatly appreciated all the assistance you have offered so selflessly. The last time I had an acolyte of such devotion was two thousand years ago. I wonder, how strong is that devotion now?
One rotten, algae-covered finger twitched.
You amaze me. Very well. I believe I shall extend the terms of our pact a while longer...perhaps until certain other parties take notice.
One booted foot brushed the silt at the lake floor. It came down firmly, followed by the other boot.
And in the shallow grave of whatever remains of your mind, know this: you will soon encounter one who has been...lost to us. Destroy him, if you can. Do it for Mommy, Jason. Do it for me.
And then, the corpse of Jason Voorhees began to writhe in the murky water, the soggy rags of its clothes tearing as it disentangled itself from the chains. Since its lungs were filled with water, it walked along the bottom of the lake, moving toward the shore. Small fish darted away from the worm-eaten hockey mask that covered its face.
As the water became shallow, the gruesome head broke its surface. Water sloughed off the sodden flesh and ragged clothing. The dim light of the waning moon reflected off the water as Jason Voorhees returned to Camp Crystal Lake.
His mind was devoid of higher thought, yet possessed of a devilish cunning. When his waterlogged boots squelched on the beach, he changed his gait to minimize the noise. He paused, listening to the wind. It was early autumn and near midnight, and a breeze was blowing through the yellowing leaves.
Then he heard it. Laughter, a woman's laughter, like the tinkling of chimes on the wind. Another laugh, deeper this time.
Jason passed into the trees with preternatural stealth, as if the forest itself were complicit in his task. He followed the laughter, barely audible over the leaves and the wind, but clear and loud to Jason.
He passed a stump, and embedded in the wood was a long machete, apparently left behind by some forgetful camper. Its brand-new blade gleamed in the starlight, the edge razor sharp.
What is a knight without his sword? the voice whispered in his mind. Jason reached down and pulled out the machete.
The wind carried the laughter to him again.
# Headquarters for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense
Headquarters for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense
"Look, that movie is terrible."
"It's a classic."
"Hellboy, no legitimate critic would ever refer to Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter as a 'classic,'" said Abe Sapien.
"Pffft. Critics," Hellboy said, as if referring to a particularly annoying form of insect.
Abe sighed explosively. "Okay, apparently we don't have a common frame of reference, so this argument is over."
"Fine by me. I'm gonna watch Captain Kronos." Hellboy began perusing the racks of videocassettes in the rec room.
They were enjoying some much-needed downtime at the headquarters of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. The B.P.R.D., based in Fairfield, Connecticut, served to protect the United States and the world at large from supernatural and other threats.
Hellboy was a rather unique member of the Bureau: he was a demon, one who was ostensibly a threat, but instead protected mankind. He had appeared in a ball of flame in England in 1944, the result of an occult ritual by Nazis gone awry. He had been saved and raised by Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, former director of the Bureau. Though just an infant at the time, he already bore his defining feature: a gigantic right forearm and hand that appeared to be made from red granite. The hand was impenetrable to any weapon known to man and, when swung by Hellboy, struck with the force of a sledgehammer. He also had horns on his forehead, though he filed them down to stumps that stuck out on his forehead like slices of salami. He found it made him look more "normal"-or as normal as a seven-foot, red-skinned demon can look.
Abe's origin was far different, and perhaps even more mysterious. He had been discovered by accident in an abandoned room in Washington, D.C. in 1978, floating in a century-old water tank. A piece of paper tacked to the side bore the inscription "Icytho Sapien, April 14, 1965"-the day Lincoln was shot. When they finally managed to wake him, they found he couldn't remember anything about himself, not even his name. And so they had christened him "Abraham" Sapien.
Where Hellboy was big and bulky, usually wearing a heavy beige trenchcoat that made him appear even larger, Abe was lithe and slender. His skin was a blue-green color and covered with smooth scales. Black stripes lined his head. He was hairless, and small fins sprouted from his calves, forearms, and neck. His facial features were mostly human, though his lips had fewer muscles than a human's; he had learned to speak with difficulty, and his smile, he'd been told, was downright creepy.
The two of them were the B.P.R.D.'s star agents (along with Liz Sherman, a pyrokinetic who was currently on one of her "sabbaticals"-she had quit the Bureau, but it was almost a certainty that she'd come back, as she had nearly a dozen times before). Hellboy's existence had been public knowledge since 1952, when he'd been granted honorary human status by the United Nations. The world was aware of the Bureau's existence, but that didn't mean Hellboy and Abe didn't draw plenty of stares when they were out in the field.
Hellboy was running one stony finger along the videocassettes. "We've got to put these in some kind of order," he muttered. "Can't we get an intern to do that or something?"
"I think Manning would prefer to make better use of an intern than organizing your collection of movies taped off HBO," said Abe. Dr. Tom Manning was the current field director of the B.P.R.D.
"Screw Manning," Hellboy said.
Abe rolled his eyes. "Come off it, HB. You've been on Manning's case for months now."
"He's a pain in the ass."
"He's not," said Abe. "He's actually quite good at his job. Frankly, I think you're bothered by this whole thing with Professor Bruttenholm and you're projecting your anger onto Tom."
Hellboy paused in his search. More than a year earlier, Professor Bruttenholm had joined the Cavendish expedition. The three famed Cavendish brothers were looking for some ancient temple in the Arctic Circle-merely the latest in a string of such quests by generations of Cavendish scions. Hellboy had argued against it tooth and nail, pointing out that the professor was in his seventies; but in the end, seniority and parenthood won out.
The last report from the expedition had been months ago. Hellboy had been frantic at first and tried to mount a rescue operation. Manning had argued that a loss of communication had been expected, pointing out that Hellboy himself had once vanished in Marrakesh and reappeared eight weeks later in a block of ice in Alaska.
Hellboy had been forced to give it up, but ever since then he'd been bad-mouthing Manning to anyone willing to put up with it. At this point, that population consisted of exactly one person: Abe. And now, even he'd had enough.
"Forget it," Hellboy said finally, returning to his search.
Hellboy's finger stopped on cassette. "Here we go," he said, pulling it out. "Haven't watched this in...well, months at least."
Abe sighed again and slumped in his recliner. He'd hoped to watch Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, but it appeared that Hellboy was, once again, not in the mood for a Merchant-Ivory film. In fact, he was never in the mood for a Merchant-Ivory film. Their one viewing of A Room with a View had been due solely to Hellboy's having been completely stone-drunk.
Just as Abe was preparing himself for ninety minutes of Horst Janson and large-bosomed British actresses, the intercom buzzed. He practically leaped out of his chair to answer it. "Abe here."
"It's Manning. Is Hellboy with you?"
Hellboy was making frantic "no" gestures. "Yes he is," Abe said, and Hellboy slammed his fist on the media center (fortunately for the faux wood, it was his normal-sized left fist).
"Good," said Manning. "I want both of you in the briefing room, pronto. Something's come up."
"On our way." Abe clicked off the intercom and smiled at Hellboy. "Duty calls. I'm afraid we'll have to catch up on the good Captain's adventures some other time."
"Damn it," Hellboy muttered.
Hellboy followed Abe into the conference room, trying not to glare at Tom Manning. As always, the B.P.R.D. director was dressed in a sharp black suit. He stood at the front of the room, flipping through pages on a clipboard. Next to him stood a younger, similarly-dressed man whom Hellboy didn't recognize.
But he did recognize the blonde woman on the other sofa. "Kate!" he said. "When did you get here?"
"Yesterday," she said, smiling as she got up and hugged him. Kate Corrigan was a professor of folklore and mythology at NYU, and had been serving as a consultant to the B.P.R.D. for years. Hellboy had been trying to convince her to join the Bureau for good, and he thought she was getting close. With the recent absence-Hellboy couldn't bring himself to call it a disappearance, not yet-of Professor Bruttenholm, the B.P.R.D. had come to rely more and more on Kate's encyclopedic knowledge of the occult. Over the last few years, she'd also become one of Hellboy's best friends.
"I heard about the Professor," she whispered to him. "I'm sorry." Kate had spent the last three months in England, researching a new book she was writing on giants in folklore.
"Hey, he's a tough old man," Hellboy said. "I'm sure he's fine. We'll hear from them soon." It was obvious he didn't believe what he was saying.
Kate nodded sadly. "Let's hope so."
"Find anything interesting in Yorkshire?" Hellboy asked.
"Just a bunch of terrified locals who swear Jack-in-Irons is up and around again," Kate said. "You may need to check it out sometime soon."
Hellboy sighed. "Great."
"Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats," said Manning.
"Who's the suit?" Hellboy whispered to Kate as they sat down. She shrugged.
Manning gestured to the younger man. He looked to be in his late twenties, with short cropped hair and black-rimmed glasses. "This is Agent Harold Green of the FBI," Manning said. "They've been having some trouble again down in Crystal Lake, and they've come to pick our brains."
"Oh, not this again," Hellboy muttered.
"What was that, Hellboy?" Manning said, annoyed.
"This Crystal Lake thing has come up over and over," said Hellboy. "We tried to check it out last time and the FBI told us to pound sand. Now they want our help? Besides, I thought they figured this guy was a serial killer-or a bunch of copycat killers cashing in on that stupid legend. There must be something in the water down there."
Green cleared his throat. "Actually, Mr. Hellboy, you may be more right than you think," he said. "Though some of you have probably heard the story before, here's what we know. In 1957, a boy named Jason Voorhees drowned in Crystal Lake. The following year his mother, one of the camp's former employees, killed two camp counselors, though the killer's identity was not known for another twenty years. The camp closed after the murders and re-opened in June 1979, when Pamela Voorhees went on a second murder spree until she was killed by one of her intended victims."
"Decapitated," Hellboy whispered to Kate, making a slashing motion across his throat.
"All of this is public record," Green went on. "But then, well, it starts to get weird. In August 1979, Pamela's killer, Alice Hardy, vanished from her home. There was a lot of blood in the kitchen, but no body was ever found. Then there's nothing until July 1984, when over the course of six days almost three dozen people were murdered. Most of our information about the killer came from a young woman named Ginny Field, who claimed it was Jason Voorhees. Somehow, she said, he had survived his drowning and was living as a hermit in the woods.
"For the record, we did find the old shack exactly where Field said we would. But there was no sign of Jason-or his mother's head, which Field claimed he'd had built a kind of shrine to. The story ends here for a while, though there was a spree of copycat killings in 1987-we got that guy. Then in May 1988, there's another series of murders. Again, witnesses say the killer is a gruesome man in a hockey mask, but we never found a body. And now the killings have started up again."
"So why call us?" said Hellboy. "Couldn't it just be another copycat killer?"
"Maybe," Green admitted. "And I'll be honest with you: coming here was my idea. My bosses weren't big on it. But there have been six murders so far and no leads. I think we need to try every angle to stop this thing once and for all."
"How were the victims murdered?" Kate asked.
"Various ways, but always brutally," said Green. "There's no real MO, though he seems to like machetes."
Kate made a face. "Ah."
Manning said, "We'll help you in any way we can." Hellboy rolled his eyes and Kate elbowed him.
"I could check out the lake," Abe offered.
"Great idea," said Hellboy. "Go jump in a lake."
Ignoring Hellboy, Kate said, "Do they have a library? I could check out the town's history. Maybe we'll find something in there."
Green smiled. "Thanks, both of you. That would be great. Assuming the Bureau can spare you?"
"Certainly," said Manning. "There are no significant cases right now. We could even give you Hellboy-"
"Oh no," said Hellboy. "No thanks. I still think is the wrong tree to bark up, and I've got better things to do with my time." Like watch Captain Kronos, he thought.
Manning glared at him, then turned to Green. "Well, you've got Mr. Sapien and Professor Corrigan. And if you need any other support, let me know."
The meeting broke up. Abe saw Hellboy beat it for the door and ran to catch up with him.
"I see you really took my advice to lay off Manning to heart."
Hellboy growled. "This is stupid. The FBI has always treated us like crap and now Tom's loaning us out to them."
"Us?" said Abe. "You mean me. And I volunteered. So did Kate."
"Fine," said Hellboy. "If you want to go traipsing around some forest and get chased by a nutjob with an axe, be my guest. I'm going to watch Horst Janson in his finest role."
Abe stopped as his friend stalked on. "Don't you mean his only role?" he called after him. Hellboy waved a hand dismissively.
With a sigh, Abe headed to his room.
Crystal Lake was in northern New Jersey, about a two-hour drive from B.P.R.D. headquarters. Green packed Abe and Kate, along with two other FBI agents, into a big black van. "FBI standard issue," the agent had joked.
As they got on the highway, Abe turned in his seat to face Kate. "So, do we count this as your first field mission?"
Kate looked up from the map she'd been studying and smiled. "You know, you look ridiculous."
"I know." He'd donned his public disguise before they left-a ridiculous affair that included a black trenchcoat, gloves, a hat, glasses and a fake mustache and beard. They referred to this persona as "Dr. Abraham Sapien." Unlike Hellboy, Abe had never really been "outed" to the public, and while his existence wasn't officially under wraps, he preferred to go incognito when he could. It just made life easier.
"As for a field mission," said Kate, "hardly. For one thing, I'm technically not an agent, remember?"
"Not yet," Abe said. "But I think you'll cave eventually."
"We'll see," said Kate. "And second, you're the one going into the field. I'm going to be safe and sound in the town library."
"Fair enough," Abe agreed. He gestured toward the map. "What's that?"
"Just a map of the lake and the surrounding area," said Kate. "It's got the locations of all the murders marked on it." She turned it to show Abe, and he saw a mass of red dots in one area near the edge of the lake.
"My, he does keep busy," Abe said, with little humor.
"Yeah," said Kate. "Grim." She put the map back in the file folder she'd been given by Green and flipped through some of the other pages, stopping on an artist's sketch. She held it up for Abe. It depicted a man in ragged clothing wearing a hockey mask and holding an axe.
"That's our killer?" said Abe. "He looks like a demented Wayne Gretsky."
Kate nodded. "Not exactly a traditional monster, is he? There's not much in here to suggest he's anything other than a run-of-the-mill serial killer, except for the fact the he keeps coming back from the dead."
"Assuming it's the same guy," said Abe.
"Right. Hey, Hellboy said they'd tried to check this out before and the FBI wouldn't let them. When was that?"
"After the murders in '88. There was some unusually isolated storm activity on the night of the murders and our research team thought there was enough weirdness to check it out. Hellboy went down there and the FBI gave him a hard time. He was pissed off about that for weeks."
"Ah-ha," said Kate. "That's why he was so grumpy at the briefing."
Abe smiled. "No, he was already in a bad mood. He's been giving Manning crap for months because of the thing with the Professor."
Kate's smiled faded. "Oh. Right."
Abe reached over and touched her shoulder. "I'm worried about him too. But the Professor has fought things far worse than any of us have. Except maybe Hellboy."
"I hope you're right," said Kate. "Speaking of whom, I wish he'd come along."
"Me too," Abe admitted.
Kate turned her attention back to the file folder. Abe turned around and unzipped his backpack, rummaging around until he found what he was looking for. As they sped toward Crystal Lake and a possible encounter with a mass murderer, Abe played Tetris on the Gameboy he'd swiped from Hellboy's room.
Kate gave a little wave as Abe slid the van's door shut. As they pulled away, heading for the lake, she turned and face what was-allegedly-the Crystal Lake Public Library.
It was a two-story house that looked like it had been built sometime in the late dark ages. There was the vaguest hint of a paint clinging to the shingles, and if Kate had to guess, she would have said it was once red. The wooden beams of the porch were worn and worm-eaten. A faded sign hung near a screen door with the words "Public Library" printed on it.
The porch steps creaked alarmingly beneath her feet. She quickly hopped up and reached for the rickety screen door, which, like the steps, announced her presence more loudly than any doorbell could have.
To her surprise, the inside of the house was much nicer than the outside. Shelves lined almost every visible square inch of wall space, and each shelf was crammed to bursting with dusty hardcover volumes.
"Can I help you, miss?" said a voice. Kate turned and saw a middle-aged woman peering at her over a pair of spectacles-honest-to-God spectacles, attached to a chain around her neck. The woman's hair was gray and wiry, and her expression, while not unfriendly, was all business. The woman had apparently been in the middle of typing something on the electric typewriter that hummed before her on the desk; her hands still hovered over the keys, as if she might begin typing again at any second, like a stenographer. Could she be any more stereotypical of a librarian? Kate wondered.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Kate. Professor Kate Corrigan. I'm with the-" she hesitated, then said, "I'm a professor from NYU. I'm doing some research on regional folklore and I'd like to have a look at some of your town histories."
"Oh?" said the woman, raising an eyebrow. "So do you want folklore or history? Because they're two different things, wouldn't you say?"
Kate smiled. "Yes and no. I guess I'd just like to see anything relating to local town history, Miss-?"
The woman's expression softened. "You can call me Leah. I'm the librarian. Obviously. As you can see, this isn't much of a library."
Kate smiled again. "It's cozy," she said. "And you wouldn't believe some of the books I've come across in small libraries like this."
"Oh, I might," Leah said mysteriously. "But let's get you started." She pushed the typewriter aside and clasped her hands on the desk. "First things first. Do you have two dollars?"
Kate cocked her head quizzically. "For what?"
"For your library card. We've got bills to pay, Professor."
Kate grinned and fished her wallet out of her jacket. "You librarians are a greedy lot," she said. "And call me Kate."
Green parked the van near the camp visitor center. Abe got out after Green and the other two agents, whom Green introduced as Vinnie Camiso and Sara Kim. Green went around to the back of the van to retrieve some equipment.
"Do we need to check in?" Abe asked.
Camiso chuckled. "No one's in there," he said, looking at the visitor center. "No one will come within a mile of this place these days, unless they're stupid. Most of the recent victims have been bennies."
"Tourists," Camiso said. "Some people say the word comes from Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York. Other say it's from Benjamin Franklin-that is, the one-hundred dollar bill, since that's the kind of money tourists would throw around."
"Vinnie's just trying to sound like a local," said Kim, watching Camiso with amusement. "But a real local would know that 'bennies' only refers to tourists visiting the Jersey Shore. Vinnie's from Arizona."
Camiso grinned. "You know why New Yorkers are so depressed, Kim? Because the light at the end of their tunnel is New Jersey."
"You need some new material," Kim said. "I'm from Toms River," she said to Abe.
Abe stared at her.
"That's on the Jersey Shore," she said.
"Ah," said Abe, nodding.
"All right, enough chit-chat," said Green, coming around the van with a large duffel bag. "Let's head down to the lake. Do you need us to carrying anything, Mr. Sapien?"
"Just Abe, please. Mr. Sapien is my father." He chuckled at his own joke-he didn't know if he'd even had a father-but the agents just looked confused, so he said, "No, I didn't bring anything with me." Unlike Hellboy, who carried a belt full of charms, gadgets, and one giant pistol, Abe tended to travel light. Most of the time he'd have to go swimming anyway, so he rarely wore more than a pair of black bicycle shorts and maybe a stainless steel diving knife, with a leg-sheathe.
Green led the way down to the shore. As they walked through the forest, Camiso hung back and walked next to Abe.
"So...what's it like working for the B.P.R.D.?" he asked.
It was a question Abe had heard many times. It always struck him as funny; being a fish-man, what else was he going to do?
"It's interesting," said Abe, realizing how passive-aggressive that sounded.
"I bet," said Camiso. "It's weird to think there was a time people thought the supernatural didn't exist. I mean, before Hellboy, you know?"
"Some people still believe that," said Abe. "Some think he's an alien, or that what we think of as 'hell' is an alternate dimension. Have you ever read Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke?"
Camiso shook his head.
"It's a science fiction novel. In the book, a race called the Overlords come to Earth and conquer it, but it's a friendly regime-they bring an end to war and usher in a worldwide utopia. But they don't reveal themselves for fifty years; when they do, it turns out they look exactly like the classic conception of the Devil.
"The novel explains that humanity had a kind of collective precognition of the end of the world. At the end of the book, the last generation of humans evolves into a higher state of being. So while the Overlords weren't evil, they did bring about the end of humanity."
Camiso was silent for a moment, then said, "So do you think Hellboy's going to bring about the end of humanity?"
Abe frowned. "No. Not at all."
"Oh. Sorry," said Camiso, embarrassed.
"No, it's fine," said Abe, thinking, it's an entirely fair question. No one knew anything about Hellboy's origin, or what his stone hand was or how he had gotten it, or whether he had some greater cosmic role to play in future events. Abe knew it was something his friend tried not to think about. But it was hard to ignore, particularly when so many religious groups were constantly calling for Hellboy's death. They believed he was an emissary of the devil-if not the devil himself.
"By the way," Camiso said, lowering his voice, "I don't know if Harry told you, but he's got a personal stake in this case."
"Oh?" said Abe. He didn't like gossip, but if there was anything that might affect Green's work on the case, it would be good to know.
"Yeah, his cousin Paula was killed by Jason-or whoever the killer is. She was a camp counselor during the '88 murders. They found her..." Camiso paused. "Well, they found what was left of her in her cabin."
Abe didn't respond. He'd seen some terrible things in his fourteen years with the Bureau, including plenty of gruesome murder scenes. Still, he felt a pang of sympathy for Paula-and for Green.
"Harry was still at Quantico then," Camiso continued. "When the latest killings started up, he asked to be put on the case."
"Isn't that a bad idea?" said Abe. "Putting someone with an emotional involvement on a case like this?"
"Yeah, usually," said Camiso. "But no one else wanted to touch it. Plus, Harry was pushing for the B.P.R.D.'s involvement. Our bosses probably figured it was time to bring you in, but you must know how a lot of the Feds feel about you guys..."
"Yes," Abe said.
"So since Harry was willing to lose face in talking to you guys, they gave him the case. Anyway, it's just something I thought you should know."
Up ahead, Abe could see a break in the trees; they were nearing the shore. "Thanks," he said. "And what about you? How do you feel about the B.P.R.D.?"
"Hell, I'd like to join you guys," said Camiso, grinning. "This is the most interesting case I've ever had. And it took me five years to get put on a multiple homicide case. Most of the time I'm either pushing a pencil or sitting in a basement with a headset, listening to a bunch of wanna-be mobsters bitch about their golf handicap."
They came out into the clearing. The beach was a narrow strip of sand; there was barely more than ten feet from the forest to the water's edge.
Green set the duffel bag down and unzipped it, then began pulling out various objects. One of these was a long, slender tube. He unscrewed the lid and tilted it; a long harpoon gun slid out into his hand.
"Brought this, just in case," said Green. "Thought we might need it if there was any diving. Want it?"
"Not right now," said Abe. He was stripping off his disguise, carefully folding the jacket and putting it down on the sand, then placing the fake beard, glasses and hat on top of it. "Maybe later, if it turns out we need to do some hunting. But I don't imagine our killer spends much time underwater."
Green shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "He's not human. Who knows what he does. We're not sure where he hides when he's not out killing." He hefted the harpoon gun. "Sure you don't want this?"
Abe shook his head as he stretched his muscles. He saw Camiso and Kim watching him, staring at his blue-green scales and the fins along his arms and legs. After another minute of stretching, he began to wade into the lake.
"Be careful," said Green.
When the water was waist-deep, Abe dived gracefully into the lake. He immediately opened his gills, relieved to be able to use his more natural breathing organs for a while. While he could breathe air through his lungs, they weren't as efficient, so he had less energy on land than in the water.
He had been looking forward to a swim in the lake, but now he found that the water wasn't nearly as clean as he'd hoped. And yet, judging from the way the water tasted, it wasn't polluted like many North American lakes; there was a different kind of uncleanliness here, something in the essence of the lake and the water itself.
Abe watched as an ugly brown fish swam past him, its tail wriggling frantically to build momentum in the murky water. Leaves and other matter lay decaying at the lake bottom, and Abe thought he saw some long gray objects that might have been bones. He didn't stop to look closer.
He stopped swimming. Something felt...wrong. Hovering halfway between the surface and the bottom, Abe shuddered despite the relative warmth of the water.
He peered into the murk. The lake almost had a presence, like so many haunted places he had visited. But had something just moved near the bottom...? Abe would have sworn he'd seen a shadow moving across the dark sand.
A few powerful strokes brought him closer to the bottom. He let himself float forward, his eyes wide, their nictitating membranes having clicked into place to protect them from any impurities in the water.
Abe swam forward again, stopped and floated. Reaching down, he ran his hand over the muddy bottom. Abruptly he felt a sharp pain and yanked it back.
He peered at his hand; a tiny thread of blood was seeping from his finger into the water. Looking down, he saw something glint in the dim light. He reached down and brushed away some of the sand, moving along until his hands closed on what felt like a wooden handle. He pulled and the object came out of the dirt.
It was a machete.
Leah had dug up nearly a dozen books on Crystal Lake's town history. Most of them were small, simple affairs, created mostly for show on the shelves or in the display hutches of townspeople. A few of them were more in-depth, enumerating the more well-known history of Crystal Lake. There was precious little from the last forty years; Leah explained that the murders had cast a pall over the town, and with each fresh wave of killings the town tried to forget the past and start anew. They'd even tried renaming the town "Forest Green" in the mid-1980s, but after the May '88 murders they'd gone back to Crystal Lake. Now, according to Leah, there was talk of capitalizing on the Jason Voorhees legend and using it to draw tourists.
"I don't like the idea myself," Leah told Kate. "It's not like we're talking about the Jack the Ripper murders a century ago. A lot of the victims' families still live here in Crystal Lake. Sure, the camping business has dried up because of it all, and we've got to find a new way to make money, but celebrating Jason Voorhees or his awful mother isn't the way to do it."
The most intriguing book Kate had come across so far was a collection of stories about Crystal Lake compiled by Fred Christy, who, according to Leah, was an uncle of the man who had tried to re-open Camp Crystal Lake in 1980 (and had been murdered by Pamela Voorhees). Christy had gone to many of the town's older residents in the 1960s and written down whatever stories they knew. He'd also dug through old letters, diaries, and logbooks dating back to the 1600s.
Kate had put the other books aside and started in on Christy's book. At first, the stories were standard colonial era fare: troubled winters, failed crops, fighting with Indians over the land, and issues with the Dutch government, who founded the original colony. But what Kate found most interesting was Christy's discovery that there was no mention of a "Crystal Lake" until the 1640s. Before that, the town had been called Bladell, and there was no reference to a lake at all.
So what happened? Kate wondered. Where did the lake come from? She had a hunch that whatever the answer was, it was important.
The other interesting thing in Christy's book-one that, apparently, no one else had noticed-was the particularly bloody history of Crystal Lake. There had been a terrible battle in Bladell during the Pequot War in 1637, when a hundred settlers and their Mohegan allies had killed nearly three hundred Pequots. After that, there were several long stretches of relative peace punctuated by abrupt outbreaks of violence.
In 1683, a settler named Jared Hawkins had killed his wife, children, mother-in-law, and brother, then gone into the town square with the bloody axe and attacked anyone he saw until he was shot by the town constable. For years afterward, whenever someone died under mysterious circumstances, it was said that Jared Hawkins had done the deed, his murderous spirit haunting the town which by then had been renamed Crystal Lake.
In 1710 a band of outlaws appeared, taking over the local inn and forcing the innkeeper to give them free room and board, as well as massive amounts of alcohol. Two of the locals were shot and the innkeeper's daughter was raped. The next day, the outlaws were ambushed by fifty of the locals as they left the inn. The townspeople sliced open the stomachs of all five men and hung them by their intestines from the trees.
But mob lynchings of that sort were rare. Usually, one person went crazy and began killing people until he (or occasionally she) was put down. Even Christy, writing more than a decade before Pamela Voorhees's killing spree, noticed the odd pattern of psychopathy in Crystal Lake.
Around six o'clock, Kate set Christy's book aside and began skimming the other books, looking particularly for references between the founding of the town in 1622 and the appearance of the name "Crystal Lake" in the 1840s. Whatever was responsible for these killings, she suspected, had its origins in Crystal Lake itself.
But, she realized, there was a larger question as well. She had already begun to theorize that there might be some sort of murderous spirit living in the town, occasionally possessing someone and causing them to go berserk. But once those people were dead, they were dead. Despite the rumors, Jared Hawkins was never actually seen after he was shot.
But if the witness reports were to be believed, Jason Voorhees had returned from the dead time and again. Why? More importantly, how?
Hellboy sighed as the credits rolled on Gunga Din. He'd spent six hours in front of the TV. Now he felt like his eyeballs were going to ooze out of his head.
He picked up the remote and pressed rewind. What to do now? he wondered. He was feeling vaguely guilty for his behavior at the briefing-and for letting Abe and Kate head off to Jersey, possibly chasing a serial killer, while he sat around the rec room eating popcorn and watching old movies.
He thought about asking Manning if he could join the case-but that would mean swallowing his pride in front of the man. He quickly nixed the idea and decided he'd just head to Crystal Lake on his own.
Then he remembered what it had been like when he'd gone down to Crystal Lake in May '88. The FBI agents investigating the case had been aloof, arrogant, and in some cases contemptuous of Hellboy. Sure, none of the would say anything to his face-he was seven feet tall, after all-but they'd stonewalled any attempt he made at investigation. He'd ended up in a shouting match with the agent in charge, who'd promptly ordered him off the case. Hellboy had left gladly, though his pride had been hurt.
The tape squealed as it finished rewinding. Hellboy got up, ejected the tape, and slid it back into its spot in the media center. As he did so, he noticed the brand-new, unopened copy of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Liz had given him last Christmas.
Chasing down false leads in a dirty old campground-or Harrison Ford killing Nazis?
"They'll be fine," he said as he reached for the tape.
Abe sat in a folding chair on the shore, shivering in his trenchcoat. The autumn air was freezing. He'd even put the fake beard back on in an effort to keep his face warm.
Camiso and Kim had gone to the visitor center to warm up. Green was sitting in another chair nearby, turning the rusty machete over in his hands.
"It's got to be his, right?" said Green.
Abe shrugged. "I couldn't tell you. It's not the one he's been using lately, at least. That one's been in the lake for a while."
"Not too long," said Green, scratching at the rust near the hilt. "It's got 'stainless steel' printed on it."
"Which dates it to sometime in the last hundred years," Abe said.
Green smirked. "Yeah, you're right." He swung the machete through the air, making cutting motions. Suddenly he dropped it like a hot potato.
"What's wrong?" said Abe.
"Nothing," said Green. He was trembling. "It's just..."
"Your cousin," Abe said quietly.
Green looked up sharply. "How-"
Green nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I was just thinking...that maybe that was what he used to kill her. Paula."
Abe reached over and put a hand on the man's shoulder. "It's okay," he said. But was it really? he wondered. There were never any good words for this sort of thing.
Green nodded. He took a deep breath. "I'm fine."
They heard a rustling behind them. Green practically leaped out of his chair, his hand flying to the holster beneath his coat. Sara Kim emerged from the forest carrying a flashlight.
"God, you scared the piss out of me," Green said, dropping back into the chair. "Sorry, agent. That was sloppy on my part."
"No problem, boss," said Kim.
"He said he was going to take the van into town to check on Professor Corrigan. And to get some snacks."
"Good," said Green, approvingly.
The thing called Jason Voorhees watched the strangers from the forest. They weren't young, foolish prey, he knew that. They were the tougher kind, who carried weapons and could fight back. He'd killed many such people, but they required more cunning.
And somehow, in the depths of his decayed mind, Jason was dimly aware that one of them wasn't...human, not like the others. And not like Jason, either, though he was no longer strictly what one could call human.
The slaying had been good so far. That first night he had killed three people, catching them all unawares, two in the throes of lovemaking. That was the best sort of kill-to turn their ecstasy to terror, to end their lives in that moment of emotional and physical triumph.
Since that first night, he had come across fewer victims, but each kill was like a draught of dark wine. And just this night, he had come across a middle-aged man dragging a screaming adolescent girl into an RV parked near the campground.
Jason had strangled the man with a steel chain, then sliced off the trembling girl's head with the machete. Children offered little to savor, there lives so small, and so they were best quickly dispatched.
Jason had relished killing the man. But now, as he watched the strangers on the beach, he felt a strange unease. Something warned him to be more careful with these victims, particularly the green man with fins like a fish.
He would have to kill them one at a time, saving the fish-man for last. As the three on the beach laughed with one another, Jason faded back into the forest.
Meanwhile, at the Crystal Lake library, Kate had struck gold-academically speaking.
She'd moved on from the official published histories, typeset and bound, to the library's small collection of journals. Some of them had spent decades, even centuries as family heirlooms before being bequeathed to the library upon the demise of some once-great ancestral line. The writing style was archaic and the handwriting often illegible, but this was something Kate had had a lot of experience with.
While perusing the journal of one Julia Tassell, the wife of a wealthy farmer in the 1630s, she came across two pages that had been stuck together somehow. Carefully peeling them apart, she found a small passage. As she read it, she felt her heart beat faster.
"I write this so that the Black Mark on the Soul of Bladell might have some record, though the Men of the Town wish it to be forgotten forever. In May in the Year of Our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Thirty-Seven, the Men of Bladell did invite the local Indian tribe to a great Feast to celebrate the start of the Season. And after the Indians had eaten, the Men did attack them with rifles and swords and slaughtered them without mercy.
As he lay dying, the Chief of the Indians did curse our Town and our Founder, Caleb Vourheis, saying we would Suffer endless Violence and Death for All Time."
This is it, Kate thought. After everything she'd witnessed during her work with the B.P.R.D., she took the real-life effects of the Indian chief's curse for granted, though she wasn't sure exactly how Jason Voorhees and his ancestor Caleb played into it. But at least she had a plan now.
She thought about trying to find a ride to the camp to tell Abe, but decided it was more important to find a way to deal with the curse.
It was 10pm; Leah had gone home hours ago (after showing Kate where the key was hidden so she could lock up before she left). But someone would be manning the B.P.R.D. switchboard.
She went to the librarian's desk and picked up the phone.
As he pulled the van to a stop next to the visitor center, surrounded by the darkness of the forest, utterly alone, Vinnie Camiso realized he may have made a mistake.
He'd forgotten the soda.
After making sure Professor Corrigan was okay at the town library (though "library" was a charitable term for that tiny place, in Camiso's opinion), he'd spent nearly a half-hour at the convenience store picking out snacks. A stakeout was nothing without food. He'd picked up candy bars, potato chips, beef jerky, and some Hostess cupcakes, but he'd completely forgotten about the soda.
He considered turning around and heading back into town, but he'd been gone long enough. For all he knew, Green and the others had already bagged Jason Voorhees and were sitting around waiting for him.
Camiso turned off the van and got out, going around to the passenger side to get the snacks out of the seat. As he opened the door and leaned in, he suddenly felt something hit his back.
He gasped, more from surprise than pain. As he turned and saw the gleaming machete jutting out of his lower back, having severed his spine and cut halfway through his torso, he barely had time to feel the first tingle of agony before the blade was withdrawn and came hissing through the air toward his throat.
Jason watched as Camiso's head thudded in the dirt, a look of puzzled shock forever frozen on its face. The kill had been swift and effective, but so unsatisfying.
With careless movements, like a man stuffing a pair of shoes under a bed, Jason pushed Camiso's body and head beneath the van. Then he picked up the machete again, turning it to look at the blood that dripped from the blade. There was no sign of emotion, such as pleasure or disgust. Just detached interest.
"Vinnie?" a woman's voice called suddenly, accompanied by the sound of crunching leaves. "You there?"
Turning quickly, Jason backed away and moved behind the van.
The woman came up the trail, treading casually, the beam of a small flashlight bobbing as she walked. She stopped when she saw the solitary van.
"Vinnie?" she said, her voice showing more concern now. She shined the flashlight in the direction of the visitor center. "Vinnie, are you in there?"
"Sara? What's up?" a man's voice called from the beach, a few dozen yards away.
"The van's here, but I can't find Camiso," said Sara. From his position behind the van, Jason heard a click sound and, somewhere in the recesses of his brain, he recognized the threat-the woman had drawn a gun.
"Vinnie, I swear to God, if this is a gag I'll kill you," Sara muttered. She kept her gun trained in front of her, the flashlight held directly beneath it in her other hand. Crouching even lower, Jason maneuvered around to the opposite side of the van. He didn't fear the gun-he didn't remember what fear was, really-but he didn't want the other two coming up from the shore.
But it was too late-another flashlight beam was bouncing up the trail, followed by swift, clumsy footsteps. "What's going on?" a male voiced asked-not the fish-man, Jason knew. The other one.
Sara had reached the passenger door of the van. Opening it, she said, "No sign of him."
"Shit," said Green. "This is bad. Where the hell did he go?"
"Wait a second..." said Sara. "Oh my God, Harry-"
Jason, crouched on the other side of the van, couldn't see what she as looking at, but he knew it was time to act.
Abe, who had remained back on the beach at Green's insistence, leaped to his feet at the sound of the gunshots.
"What's happening?" he shouted, and he started to run toward the path. "Green!" he called. "Kim!" There was no answer; the shouts and gunshots had stopped.
He slowed and stopped as he emerged into the clearing near the visitor's center. His piscine eyes, which were sensitive enough to pierce through the murkiest water, could make out the shape of the van ahead of him.
For a moment he was motionless, listening for a twig snapping or a footfall on the soft ground of dirt and pine needles. But the rustling of the trees in the wind smothered all other sounds.
"Green?" he said finally. "Kim?"
It would have been impossible to describe how he knew the attack was coming-perhaps a shift in the wind, a change in the way the leaves rustled nearby-but Abe lunged to the side just as the machete came whistling over his head.
"Son of a-" was all he had time to say before he had to duck again. He could hardly make out his attacker beyond a huge shape, but he could see the old-style hockey mask floating in the dark above him-and the gleam of the machete as it swung toward his neck.
With a leap that was rather graceful under the circumstances, Abe sprang away from the killer and hit the ground rolling. He got to his feet as quickly as he could, keeping his head down and his limbs close to his body to offer the smallest target possible to his pursuer. Somewhere far too close behind him he heard the swish of the machete cutting the air.
He started to break into a full-on run when he tripped and stumbled, landing face-first in the muddy dirt. Even as he struggled to get to his feet, his brain was noting the oddness of mud when it hadn't rained recently...and then he saw what he'd stumbled over.
It was the bodies of Green and Kim-or what was left of them. The dirt beneath his feet was soaked with blood.
He barely had time to register this before the Shape was looming over him again, machete raised high. Abe kicked his legs, desperately trying to backpedal from his sitting position, but his feet slipped in the bloody mud.
The blade came down-
Jason raised the hilt of the machete, looking with curiosity at the jagged remnant of its blade. Then he turned to his new foe.
The creature was tall, even taller than Jason, with bright red skin and a long, chiseled face. It wore a beige trenchcoat and was looking at Jason with a grim expression. Its right hand was huge and appeared to be made from stone; this was what his machete had shattered against.
The other hand was pointing a rather large gun directly at Jason.
"Sorry, pal," the creature said, "but it looks like you brought a knife to a gun fight."
The blast tore a softball-sized hole in Jason's chest and sent him flying across the clearing. He struck a tree and felt his neck and several bones in his back crunch at the impact. Slumping at the base of the tree, his vision began to blur, fading to the abyss he had so often visited since his first death.
"So much for you," he heard the creature mutter. "You OK, Abe? Sorry I'm late..." The creature's voice faded as Jason slipped deeper into the abyss.
No, a voice spoke to him. Not yet. Arise, knight.
"...and then Kate called the Bureau and asked me to take a chopper down with Manny Roberge, one of our Native American experts," Hellboy said. "They're at the library now, looking through some old books. I guess they're going to try to do some cleansing ritual to ditch the curse or something."
Abe was leaning against the FBI van, catching his breath. "He...he butchered them..."
Hellboy regarded the remains of the agents. "Yeah, but now he's down for the..." Hellboy trailed off as he saw the tree across the clearing.
Jason was gone.
The hilt of the machete stabbed into Hellboy's right biceps, the jagged six inches of the blade ripping into the muscle. Hellboy felt his arm go numb. He swung wildly with his left fist, but his attacker was already gone.
"Son-of-a-bitch!" Hellboy roared. Gritting his teeth, he grasped the hilt of the blade and yanked it out of his biceps. He tried to flex his arm at the elbow, but between the stabbing and the weight of his right hand, his arm might as well have been a length of chain hanging from his shoulder.
"Jesus," Abe breathed. "Are you all right?"
"God damn it," Hellboy was muttering. "Sadistic little bastard..."
Abe was alert now. "Where is he?"
Hellboy looked around, but there was no sign of Voorhees. "Dunno. Dammit, dammit." He drew his pistol from its holster. "Look around, see if you can find the agents' guns. And stay close."
Abe gingerly moved near the remains and began running his hands over the dirt, trying to ignore the squishy sounds it made. He tried to catch a gleam from one of their weapons in the starlight.
Hellboy tried to cover him, pistol in hand, but given the tree cover and the lack of a moon, it was practically pitch-black. His stone hand hung uselessly at his side, blood trickling down the sleeve of his coat.
"Oh, damn," Abe said.
"I found Camiso," he said. He was kneeling near the van. "Or what's left of him." He reached under the corpse's jacket. "Looks like he was taken by surprise-his gun's still in its holster."
"Good," said Hellboy. "Well, not that he was taken by surprise, but that he has his...ah, you know."
Abe took the weapon from Camiso's body. Since he had no special offensive capabilities, like Hellboy's stone hand and toughness or Liz's fire, he'd practiced his shooting regularly. He checked the cartridge to make sure it was loaded, then reloaded it, checked the slide and thumbed off the safety.
"Ready," he said. "What's the plan?"
"Plan?" said Hellboy.
"Yeah. It'd be nice if we had some idea what we were-"
The clearing flashed into view and there was a deafening report as Hellboy fired his pistol.
"Gotcha, you little-" Without warning Hellboy bounded into the forest.
"Wait! Dammit, Hellboy...!" Abe called.
"Stay there!" Hellboy shouted back. He reloaded his pistol as he ran, listening out for the slightest crack of a twig in front of him. He'd seen a vague shape move
Jason ran through the trees, his unreliable legs stumbling against the branches and rocks. No one could have said what Jason was now, but whatever had happened to him, it had made his body less nimble than it had once been. Usually this posed no problem, as he rarely bothered to run his victims down; but he had never had to flee before, either.
Whatever the creature was, it was more dangerous than anything he had ever faced before. His chest stung where the giant gun had torn a hole through it-stung in a way beyond mere physical pain. There was something about the gun, or perhaps the shot, that had hurt him not just physically, but had struck at his unnatural core-the part of him that allowed him to return time and again.
He needed a weapon. His instinctive, murderous mind instantly remembered where it had seen one.
Jason slowed down, ducked down and took cover in the brush, and began to circle back toward the camp.
What the hell is this guy? Hellboy wondered as he ran after it. A zombie? A revenant? Some sick scientist's experiment? Not many of the human-sized creatures Hellboy encountered could take a point-blank round from his pistol and live to tell about it...he tried to think quickly. Kate had said something about a curse-
Hellboy stopped, realizing his crashing run through the forest really wasn't accomplishing anything. He listened closely, but the only sound was the rustling of the leaves in the wind.
"Come on out, you sick psycho," said Hellboy. "What-scared to fight someone who isn't a teenage girl?"
There was no answer but the endless wind. Hellboy cursed and holstered his gun. The thing had led him on a wild goose chase through the pitch-black, unfamiliar forest, and away from-
Though it was still very dark, due to the new moon, and the starlight was often obscured by clouds, the beach alongside Crystal Lake was still a lot brighter than the woods. After half-heartedly attempting to chase Hellboy into the woods, Abe had quickly made his way back to the shore; he figured it was as secure a spot as there was around here.
He found his bag and rummaged through it until he came up with his watch. He clicked the backlight switch: 4:45 AM. Dawn was still hours away.
Keeping a close eye on the edge of the forest, Abe considered his options. Hellboy could take care of himself; of that he was sure. Kate and Roberge were still in town, trying to find a way to put Jason Voorhees down for good. And the agents...he tried not to think about their bodies, or rather, what was left of them...a shabby pile of remnants in the dirt...
He suddenly realized no one else knew about the agents yet. While he wasn't sure whether the B.P.R.D.-or the FBI- would be able to send any more help soon enough to be useful, he could at least use the satellite phone to inform them of their agents's deaths.
Abe had turned back to his bag when a flicker of movement caught his eye. Something had moved near the chairs he and Green had been sitting on earlier.
He stood quickly, checking behind himself almost instinctively-this Jason seemed to be very good at sneaking up on people-before turning back to the chairs and looking at the forest directly behind them. He couldn't see anything now...
Then he remembered: the rusty machete. Hellboy had shattered Jason's other one-he might be looking for a replacement. Abe quickly crossed the beach to the chairs, trying to remember where he'd seen it last. Hadn't Green been holding it? He ran his hands over the sand, searching.
Something sheared through his fingers, and Abe yanked back his hand. He'd cut himself on the machete's blade.
Damn, he thought, gonna need a tetanus shot for that. But he breathed a sigh of relief as he found the wooden handle and picked up the machete out of the sand.
There was a sudden sound behind him, like the burst of an air hose, and he lurched forward involuntarily. Gazing down, he saw the tip of a metal spear jutting from his ribs. Dark blood began to trick down his blue-green skin.
Even as he turned the shape was already flying at him, one scabby fist swinging for his head, and the world went dark.
Once the fish-man had dropped to the sand, Jason tossed the speargun aside. The weapon required too much time and effort to reload and use again. He reached down and picked up the machete, his fingers slipping around the grooves of the familiar handle. Flakes of rust seemed to fall from the blade like dust, and the edge gleamed.
Beneath him lay the fish-man, the sand turning dark beneath him as blood ran from his wound. Jason looked down at him, turning the machete over in his hand, appearing almost to hesitate.
Kill it, said the voice in the darkness. Kill this blasphemous man-spawn of Num-Yabisc, which sought so arrogantly to live outside the Deep.
Jason gazed absently at the fish-man's smooth, gleaming neck, imagining it parting smoothly, almost effortlessly, the blood jetting thickly, the meat bursting out like stuffing from a pillow...
KILL IT! NOW!
The machete glittered in the starlight.
When Hellboy had gotten back to the visitor's center, Abe was nowhere in sight. But he'd been surprised to notice another car parked next to the van-it looked like a standard-issue B.P.R.D. Taurus.
Kate and Roberge must have arrived, Hellboy realized. But then where-
The sound of gunshots snapped him out of his reverie, and he broke into a run toward the beach. Tearing through the brush on his cloven hoofs, he was there in less than thirty seconds.
He quickly took the scene in: Abe, lying face-down in the sand, a dark spot beneath him that Hellboy knew had to be blood; Jason a few steps away from Abe, looking dazed, four new bullet holes in his chest; and just in front of Hellboy, Kate and Manny Roberge, the latter holding his gun steady at Jason.
"Jesus Christ." Kate looked shocked. She was standing just behind Roberge, her hands full of books and papers.
"It's OK, Kate." Kate jumped; Roberge, to his credit, didn't move, keeping his weapon trained on Jason.
"We've got him now," said Hellboy as he walked over to them. He was worried about Abe, but didn't want to make any sudden moves that would allow this psycho to finish Abe off for good.
Jason was lurching to his feet, the machete still dangling from his hand. Kate looked scared, but Hellboy chuckled mirthlessly. "Forget it, Kate," he said. "He can't get to you guys without going through me."
Before Hellboy could react, Jason's hand lashed out and the machete went whipping through the air. It struck Roberge and lodged deep in his shoulder, severing it all the way to the breastbone. A gout of blood spurted in Kate's face.
Kate screamed while Roberge, in his death throes, reflexively fired the last few shots from his gun. As Hellboy leaped forward to try and help him, one bullet went wild and lodged itself in his leg.
"God damn it!" Hellboy bellowed. Roberge was still writhing in his arms, making inarticulate gurgling sounds as he choked on his own blood. Kate, still in shock, managed to help lay the dying Manny on the sand.
Hellboy glanced at Jason, who was slowly walking toward them. Jesus Christ, he thought, this penny-ante zombie thug is slaughtering us! At least he appeared to have lost interest in Abe for the time being...
"Can you do the ritual without Manny?" he asked Kate.
"I don't know," she said, her voice shaky. "Maybe...but even if I did, I don't know if it'll do anything to him right now..."
"Just get it done," Hellboy said. Jason was almost on them now. He saw the blood on Kate's face, the panic in her eyes, and he put his left hand on her shoulder. "Kate. Get it done!"
She looked into Hellboy's eyes, and her face hardened. She nodded.
"Awright," said Hellboy, getting to his feet to face Jason. "That was your last victim, you motherf-"
Moving incredibly fast, Jason snaked around Hellboy, dodging beneath the swing of the huge stone hand. Lunging forward, the killer backhanded Kate, knocking her away from Roberge, then tore the machete out of the dead man's shoulder.
"Oh, I get it," Hellboy said as he circled around in order to put himself between Jason and Kate, who was scrambling to pick up her books and papers out of the stand. Hellboy was trying not to let his building rage get the best of him. "Need your little knife to feel tough, huh?"
Jason didn't say anything, merely cocking his head with vague curiosity. After the attack on Roberge, Hellboy wasn't going to underestimate this freak a second time. He tried to flex his right arm-it was healing, but it was still numb, and he didn't think he could throw a proper punch with it.
"C'mon, c'mon," he muttered. "Come and get me..."
Jason turned and ran for the forest.
"No!" Hellboy practically leaped the ten feet between them and grabbed Jason's shoulder with his left hand. The killer struck out with the machete, but Hellboy was ready for it; he yanked his hand back, and the machete sunk deep into Jason's own shoulder.
"Idiot," Hellboy said, watching the other as he struggled to pull the machete out of his shoulder. Hellboy grabbed him by the back of his torn shirt, lifted him over his head, and threw him across the beach into the water.
"I'd tell you to stay down..." Hellboy crossed toward the thrashing Jason, "...but we're way past you getting outta here alive."
He stopped just at the waterline and drew his pistol. Jason had finally managed to tear the machete out of his shoulder; now his left arm hung loosely at his side, its sinews split to the bone.
"This is just sad," Hellboy said, and he pulled the trigger. The 20mm shell caught Jason in the chest with such force it flipped him, sending him crashing back in the water. Once the water settled, his body began to float listlessly, the hands trailing in the water, the machete gone.
Holstering his pistol, Hellboy called out to Kate, "How's it going?"
"Um...I'm not sure..." she said. "I've said some incantations, but my Munsee is pretty much non-existent...we're going to need a real Indian, I think..."
"Well, we've got time now," said Hellboy. "He ain't going anywhere. How's Abe?"
Kate, who appeared for a moment to have forgotten all about their colleague, quickly moved to his side, turning him over carefully. "He's alive," she said, and Hellboy felt a weight lift from his chest he hadn't even noticed was there. "I don't want to pull the spear out, because it seems to be stopping the bleeding, but we need to get him to a hospital-"
Hellboy was looking down at Jason's inert corpse. "Yeah," he said, reaching down, "let me just grab this g-"
The machete shot out of the water and stabbed deep into Hellboy's abdomen. Startled, the demon fell awkwardly back into the lake. His trenchcoat and stone hand dragged him under the water, and as he struggled to get to his feet, he saw Jason standing over him, left arm still hanging limply, the black holes of the hockey mask gazing down at him.
There was a stinging pain as the killer yanked the machete out of his stomach. Hellboy turned in the water, getting on all fours in an effort to push himself to his feet, and he felt the machete thump into his back, the blade sinking into his red flesh. He roared in pain-and rage.
That. Is. It.
Hellboy's right arm was still numb from the stab wound to his biceps, but he twisted his torso as hard as he could, his right hand swinging like an anchor on a chain-and smashing directly into Jason's face. The hockey mask broke apart with a sickening crunch, white plastic flecks flying in all directions as Jason was thrown back into the water.
Shrugging off his waterlogged coat, Hellboy got to his feet, water and blood streaming from his body. "That's the last time you hit me," he growled.
Jason was slowly rising from the water, and in the starlight Hellboy could dimly make out the gruesome features of his face. An old wound on his scalp had widened and festered over the years, while his already deformed face had only been made more hideous by his frequent deaths and resurrections. One eye bulged from its socket, swollen and black, while the other gleamed with malice.
"Yeah, yeah," said Hellboy. "Come and get me."
And for some reason, in that moment it occurred to Hellboy he'd never once heard Jason speak; and despite it all, despite the murders and the gore and Roberge, he wondered what Jason's story was. And to his surprise, he felt the tiniest wisp of pity for the thing.
And then it was lunging for him. Hellboy yanked his pistol from its holster, aimed high and fired. Jason's head exploded like an overripe melon, splattering blood, bones and brains into the water. The headless corpse was thrown backward and slowly sunk beneath the water.
"That's it for you," Hellboy murmured. "Rest in hell, asshole."
It took another day to get everything sorted out. The B.P.R.D. and the F.B.I. both arrived shortly after dawn with unneeded reinforcements, who instead found nothing but dead comrades and three very tired agents. Abe was taken by helicopter to a hospital closer to the Bureau, but Kate decided to wait until another Native American expert arrived to perform the cleansing spell.
Against the protests of Kate, Hellboy decided to hang around too. Within a few hours his body had already healed most of his wounds, though the pain in his gut where he'd been stabbed with the machete would linger.
It came as no surprise to either Hellboy or Kate that an exhaustive search by both B.P.R.D. and F.B.I. divers came up with no evidence of Jason's body, aside from a few flecks of dirty plastic.
"Gonna have a lot of fun writing this one up," Hellboy muttered to Kate late that evening as they watched a Native American shaman chant over a small fire. He nodded in the direction of the shaman. "Think this'll work?"
Kate shrugged. "Hard to say. The record of the curse wasn't very specific, so he's just doing a sort of all-encompassing cleansing spell. But it all depends on how much of Jason Voorhees is really due to the curse...if any at all."
"Y'think?" said Hellboy. "I thought it seemed pretty open-and-shut to me. And besides, he doesn't have a head now. Hard to imagine him coming back from that."
"Yeah," Kate said, sounding unconvinced.
They turned back to watch the shaman as he chanted over the fire, saying words that were old long before the white men first came to those shores. And in the moment before twilight faded to night, Hellboy caught something out of the corner of his eye.
Squinting, he saw a canoe floating in the middle of Crystal Lake, with what looked like a girl sitting in the middle of it. He went to tap Kate's shoulder, but decided to look one more time to make sure he wasn't seeing things. But then the light faded and it was night, and darkness covered the lake.