Something Like Home
Disclaimer: Hellboy, the concept, belongs to Mike Mignola. Hellboy, the films, belong to Guillermo Del Toro. But the story belongs to me.
When Liz calls John Myers out of the blue, he realizes he's got to find someplace between heaven and hell to house a very strange (and quickly growing) family.
I was just getting my life back together when Liz called.
"… Liz?" I'd paused out of sheer disbelief. She never called. Letters, emails, a postcard from some nifty place, yes, but phone calls to my part of the world (Antarctica – thank you, Hellboy) are expensive. And Red never exactly approved. She never said as much, but I get the feeling. Red's pretty obvious.
But this call…
"Wanted to let you know. Red, Abe, and I are quitting the BPRD."
"What? Why? What happened?"
"We just got fed up. It's a really long story. You've been following the news?"
"Yes – I saw you guys the other night. On the news."
"Yep. Anyway, we're quitting and moving out of New York."
"That's where you come in…"
And that was it.
Bye to Antarctica, bye to sub-permafrost ley lines and Devonian monsters, bye to all the strange, yet fascinating people who meet at the bottom of the world. Bye to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Well, I'm not leaving them altogether. I had a feeling I'd need all the connections I can get.)
Not that I mind. These guys are some of my best friends. For a unique definition of 'friend.' I mean, Liz and I have a… history, but we get along great. And Red said I was 'okay.' And Abe. Abe's nice. He said I was 'pure of heart.' That's pretty encouraging.
Fortunately, money wasn't a problem. Location, though, was. I met up with them in a hotel – a Holiday Inn – on the coast of Rhode Island, a short walk from the ocean.
Liz met me at the airport and gave me a quick hug. She looked great with her new haircut. Then we took a taxi to the hotel, and the ground room floor.
As soon as the door opened, I heard water running and the TV going. Hellboy got up from the bed. "Myers! Good to see ya." The television was tuned to the Food Network, of all things. Hellboy caught me in a hug which I'm sure was entirely amiable – just a bit strong, is all. "Abe! It's Myers!" he hollered. "Go in and say hi," he added to me, clapping me on the back (I heard a slight snapping sound, but I'm sure I wasn't using those vertebrae anyway.)
I entered the bathroom – a tiny space, barely worthy of the name – and I was actually kind of sad to see Abe there. Last time I'd seen him, he was in the BPRD library, with four books at once and a vast aquarium all to himself. But Abe greeted me warmly enough, always cordial.
He had two books in front of him: 'The Life of Pi,' and what looked like a dime-store novel: 'Love in Vienna.' He was currently reading 'Pi' with a pair of tongs so he wouldn't dampen the pages.
"Liz borrowed them," he explained to me, "I'm trying to take it slowly. I started this one only this morning."
I couldn't help it; I checked my watch. It was barely noon. And Abe was almost done with the book. I gave a little sigh. "How are you holding up?"
"Well enough," he answered. "Well enough."
"Myers!" That was Hellboy again. "Come out onto the porch. I got some cigars I wanna share with you, and Liz won't let me smoke in the room."
When Hellboy wanted to share cigars with you, you took it as a great honor and joined him, pronto. We emerged onto a secluded back porch, and Hellboy offered me one – Cuban, probably. I've never been much of a smoker, but I gave it my best shot, and tried not to cough or choke too loudly.
"It's a celebration, Myers." Hellboy took a deep drag from his cigar.
"What of?" I asked as best as I could.
"I haven't been able to have a good smoke in weeks, not since she told me."
"Told you what?" How could anyone stand these things?
Hellboy turned and looked at me, grinning proudly. "Liz is having a baby, Myers!"
I was forced to cough loudly a few times before saying, "Great! Congratulations! Um…"
"Actually, twins. Yeah, I can't believe it either." I was very glad that he took my silence for agreement. "So, yeah, that's why we need you to find a place for us to live."
"Well… what did you have in mind?"
"I'm not sure. I can't think of a lot of places I've been that I'd like to raise kids." Hellboy took another drag from his cigar.
I watched my cigar's little flames eat it up. Timidly, I asked, "Well, what are some other things you'd rather not have? A list of things you don't want is as good a place to start as any."
Hellboy nodded and took a long time before he answered. "Well," he began, blowing another cloud of full-bodied smoke, "I don't want the little guys to be all cramped up – asphalt, city streets. I want a nice, big backyard. You know 'Calvin and Hobbes'?"
"I own all the books," I piped up, probably too quickly.
"Yeah. In 'Calvin and Hobbes,' they're always running through big forests. The forest never even seems to end. I'd like something like that. And I want them to not feel like they're being watched all the time. I want them to be able to skin their knees without me and Liz and Abe and Johann going all haywire."
"Yeah, kids should be able to make mistakes. But, um, did you say, Johann?"
"Another friend of ours. You'll meet him. He's out now. He's a bit pretentious, but he's got your back."
"Um… sure. But a good, big backyard. That sounds nice. And freedom."
"Yeah. I don't want these kids to grow up feeling like they're just weapons, or just a time bomb, waiting to go off. I want them to grow up to feel at least kind of normal."
I took another drag from my cigar. I was slowly starting to get used to this, and I was a little frightened of the prospect. "Of course… that's gonna depend a lot on… what they look like."
"So we won't be able to predict that until we actually meet them."
"Yeah. But I know one thing about them."
"They'll have black hair."
"How…?" I started to ask, then I remembered: Liz had straight black hair, and Hellboy did, too – though you didn't notice his hair at first. I grinned. "Yeah, I'll bet. I'll start getting some little bows for their hair."
Hellboy glared at me. "No son of mine will wear hair bows!"
"How do you know it's not twin girls?"
"Abe says we'll know in a month or two," Liz said through the window.
"What, is he your OB/GYN? Don't answer that," I added hurriedly.
"Well, who else am I going to go to?" she replied, and her face vanished; the vertical blinds fell back into place. I turned back and sighed, a bit of smoke still clinging to my breath. "This is a tall order. Finding a place for all of you…"
"And the kids."
"And the kids." I thought about it for a while. While I was thinking, Hellboy said in a low, gruff voice, "Myers. I'm not sure about this."
"About the kids," he repeated. "I mean, I don't know the first thing about raising kids. About fathers. I mean, look at my relationship with my own pop!"
"Just because you and your father had some… difficulties, doesn't mean you had a bad relationship. He cared a great deal about you."
"And he and I aren't anything alike."
I remembered how stubborn each had been when they fought; how sternly moral they could be in the face of evil – staunch, that's the word for it. "You're probably more alike than you think. And I mean – let's face it, even if those kids end up looking like –" I grasped for examples, "little baby movie stars, they're still going to be very – unique. And it's hard to be different. And you're going to be better than anyone else at helping them get through that. I guarantee it."
He kind of grunted.
"And I'm –" he stopped abruptly.
I hesitated. "Go on."
He took a deep breath. "Look. The men in that army platoon that found me named me Hellboy, but that's not my legal name."
"Oh?" I'd read his entire file, this was the first I'd heard of it.
"My father wanted to make sure I had a good, legal name to fall back on. I mean, you can't put 'Hellboy' on a birth certificate."
"I've never heard you called anything but that. And 'Red.' And…" I fell silent. The third name, the name that had the power to unleash hell. I had saved him from that name, and I didn't want to risk—well—on with the story.
Hellboy grinned. "When I was about twelve I told Dad I hated the legal name, and he stopped using it. Just stopped. Even Liz doesn't know about it."
"I don't know about what?" sounded from inside.
"Guy talk," he replied briskly. I told Hellboy that I soundly recommended him telling her at some point. Meanwhile I was trying to imagine what was his legal name. For some reason, Heathcliff came to mind. Finally, I had to ask, "What is it? I… I guess your last name's Bruttenholm."
"Yep. Emmanuel Trevor Bruttenholm."
I took a nip from my cigar to prevent myself from rudely crying "Emmanuel?" Finally I managed to say, "Do tell."
"Well, Trevor Bruttenholm for my father, obviously."
I nodded. Of course, Trevor would lend him the protection of his own name against his son's tendency to darkness. "And your first name…"
"I was… summoned into this world on December 23rd. Two days before Christmas – the Mass held then is the Emmanuel Mass. It means 'God is With Us.'"
"I can see why it may not suit you," I said evenly, all the while thinking what a good protection a name like that would serve. Even hidden, a name can be powerful…
"And that's the other thing. What are we going to name the little scamps?"
I shrugged. "Better draw up a list? I think, more pressingly, you guys can't stay here. Abe will suffocate in that bathroom…"
"Oh, Abe's fine. Every morning he sneaks out to the beach and does some swimming there, where no one else can see."
"Yep. But he's real moody, now, too." Hellboy – I tried to think of him as Emmanuel for a minute – "I think he's started writing poetry."
"Did something… happen?"
"Yeah." But now Hellboy was silent again. He added, "Well, we better go back inside. Emeril Lagasse's making some kind of chili that looks really good. Don't wanna miss it. Oh yeah, Myers," he added, "I want my kids to have a good church. Roman Catholic. Old school. I want my kids to have the same church that my father did. Just… y'know… not so strict."
"Got it," I said, nodding. I added that to my list, ideas for a place where Liz, Hellboy, and Abe would all be happy: a big backyard with room to run around; non-judgmental neighbors; a big body of water nearby; and a Roman Catholic church. Oh, and fireproof.
At least I wouldn't have to worry about it being monster-free. I rather felt that Hellboy would welcome that challenge. Family bonding time.
I followed Hellboy back into the room, lightly saying, "You know, all things considered, Antarctica would probably be a great place to raise children – I'm kidding! Kidding!"