Hellboy: Oddest Jobs
Freeze on this panel. Hold this panel. Now —
— Let it go.
Further excerpts from Hellboy's report
We came together like two bulls of the woods, and it was a collision that made my back teeth tremble, and that was just our chests meeting, and then there were the fists.
Now, let me tell you, when I reflect on this, it comes across as kind of cool. But at that precise moment in time, cool was not what I was thinking.
The big obsidian fist came at me so fast it was a blink within the blink of an eye. It hit me as hard as the train engine had hit me. And here's the part that I can look back on as kind of cool, or at least unusual: I hit him at the same time.
Next thing I remember I'm slammed against a wall and rats are squirming all over me, and I'm grabbing them and slinging them against the floor and they are exploding like bottles of ink.
I look across the way, and there is my foe, this Obsidian Giant. My blow has knocked him back on his bed, right on top of that hunk of meat that was once a woman. He's rising up slowly, shaking his head, and as he does, the walls of the train strip in spots and I can see light through them. Then the light goes black and the strips seal, and he's up, and I'm thinking, man, this sucks. He took a pretty good shot from the ol' Right Hand of Doom, and he's still got his head on.
We come together again, and its Fist City, dear hearts. Slinging knuckles like blackjacks. He gets in some good blows, but this time I'm slipping them a little, and I'm not winding up so much, jabbing out with my Left Hand of Not So Much Consequence, saving the Big Boy (I just started calling it that, and it worries me a bit, naming parts of the anatomy) for the Big Moment.
The jabs are working. When I jab him, shadows fly out of his face. I go for a right, but the Big Boy misses, because the guy is as slippery as a greased eel. He pops me one hard enough to make numbered sheep jump across my vision. But then I've got him. I come low and grab all the way down to his ankles, butt him with my head, and back he goes on the bed. I drop a knee into his groin, and then I give him the Big Boy.
Its a perfect shot. He doesn't roll with it. Its more solid than the first shot, and that would have knocked over an SUV. This one, its right in the middle of his face and when I hit him, its like my fist is diving down in dark waters, and the waters splash up and go high and come down on me and splatter against my face and chest, and even over my back. I'm thinking about my nifty trench coat, that it's no longer nifty, and then the light rips in through the blackness. The bats break free and show more light as they climb to the sky. The rats scuttle and squeak. Then there is a tornado effect of spinning bats and rats and shadow, and I'm caught up in it, pulled up into it like a leaf, and away I go, doing the Pecos Bill thing, riding the tornado, and the next thing I know I'm flung out of the storm and I'm crashing into a building, which does neither building nor me any good. And then, there is much light.
I look. Tornado gone, baby. Gone.
The sky is blue and the sun is bright, and I feel like I've been run through a blender then hammered out with a mallet. I lay there, trying to breathe again. And then I'm feeling woozy, and I roll over, thinking something is coming up from my insides, but I only cough out a piece of a bat hung in the back of my throat. Yuk.
Lying where the boxcar was — for now there is no boxcar — are hunks of meat, body portions, pieces of the missing townspeople. My figure is there will be no
Cactus Festival this year.
One body lies separate from the others. The body that had lain in his bed. I stagger over for a look see. Withered. Split apart. Did he not realize she was dead, that he had done it with his dragons and bats and rats and trains?
I figure not.
And who was he?
No answer. I know him only as I have labeled him: The Obsidian Giant.
I had to look around for the Reverend Jim Jeff. No idea where he was. I finally found him where the explosion of the boxcar and the whirl of the tornado had thrown him. He'd been knocked through a plate-glass window, knocked so hard his clothes were almost cut off of him and he looked a little like a butchers hamburger special. But he was breathing. The wolfiness had gone away.
Don't move an injured person they say, but they were not there with me and they couldn't see how bad he needed a doctor. I thought about a few tricks in my bag, but none of them would do for this. I put him in the rental, which, though upright, had been flipped a few times, and though still blue, did not look so fine anymore: roof bent in, headlights shattered, the doors all stuck from the car having rolled.
I put the Reverend down and just jerked the door off the drivers side. I slid him across the seat, to the passenger's side, cranked back the seat, strapped him in. I got behind the wheel. The key was still in the ignition. I drove furiously.
I was doing at least one hundred and twenty. The car started to rock. I whipped through that line of little towns until I came to Cold Shepherd. Just like all the other towns it was now a place of blue sky and sunlight and no people.
As I passed the Leaving Cold Shepherd sign I saw the National Guard. The soldiers raised their rifles either in warning or greeting; probably the latter. No one shot at me.
I arrived at the Phoenix Hospital, and there were all manner of things you were supposed to do to park, but they bored me. I ran through a striped bar and made a guy in the little house that gave out parking permits jump (caught that out of the corner of my eye), and then I banged the car up some steps so hard and fast I tore out a chunk of its bottom.
I parked on the grass in front of the sign that said Stay Off The Grass, and got
Reverend Jim Jeff out of there and ran with him in my arms to the hospital. At the desk I was told to wait, and I told them I wasn't waiting, and if they didn't get a doctor down quick, I would tear the place up. They all knew who I was. Everyone does. Tabloids. News.
Anyway, everyone's staring because I'm not exactly your everyday view, and my tail is twitching nervously.
They get a stretcher down there, and then we're in the elevator, going up, and then we're on the floor, and as we wheel Reverend Jim Jeff out, I let the orderlies take him, glide him along toward surgery, 'cause that's what he needs (ribs are broken and poking out of him like porcupine quills), and I say, "You might want to worry if he starts growing hair."
Then I hear this awful scream, and go rushing along the corridor, 'cause that's what I do, help people, even when I might rather be somewhere else. I rush into the room where the scream is coming from, and what do I see on the big (formerly white-sheeted) bed in the room: a nude body, burned all over, minus genitals (flames got them), toes fused together, fingers fused together, and the face ... Well, there isn't any face (and this is the source of the no-longer-white sheets), because he's got a hole right through the middle of where his face is, and that hole is just about the size of the Right Hand of Doom, the Big Boy, and it is from that hole that blood has leaped, all the way to the ceiling and all over the walls, coloring the sheets apple-ripe red, but a lot less appetizing.
The nurse who has come in to check the temp is screaming, and then she sees me, and maybe she's not hip to the tabloids and the TV appearances, or maybe it's just too much to take: the discovery of a face that has exploded and a big red demon with a Big Right Hand and sawed-off horns and a twitchy tail in her path, but she really screams now, and then ... well, you really know the rest.
I have his name now. Wilbur Cain. A guy who must have had some real bile inside him. And as Kate suggested, he had to have astral-projected all the things he loved into something sour and mean. Something about the woman he had in the bed with him. Something about his mother, because he had tried to commit suicide, maybe more hoping it would kill her than him, and he managed that. Can't figure the whole story. It's a confusion, a big ole baffle. Whatever. May his soul fly free.
Reverend Jim Jeff. He's got the best care they can give him. I've checked on him and he's conscious now, and he even took hold of the Right Hand of Doom, one finger anyway, and he said, "We make a pretty good team."
"Well, you're the one gets the nurses," I said. "Me, the doctor looked over my cuts and poured alcohol on them."
"Nurse I got is named Bob and he always has a growth of beard and his breath smells like chewing tobacco ... Hellboy, thanks, my friend."
"You're welcome. I had to drive back this direction anyway."
Okay. That's the report, all emailed out. I can fill in the rest of it later. Oh yeah. I'm not coming back for a while.
A unique wedding chapel
Hellboy sat in a very comfortable lawn chair on top of a big glass floor with the ocean underneath. It was a place designed for weddings. Couple came in, had their wedding on the glass floor, looked down, they could see fish swimming. Groovy, baby.
Hellboy bent over and watched the fish for a while.
He sat up and leaned back and looked out beyond the glass and beyond the open walls. He could see the blue sea and the blue sky, and the way they met, it was almost as if there were no heaven and earth, but only a big bright ball of blue.
It was nice.
A cool wind blew.
A man in a white coat, with hair slicked down with so much grease you could have run your finger through it and used the tip of it to oil a squeaky door, came over with a tray with a tall drink on it that was as blue as the sky and the sea, a wedge of orange draped the edge of the glass, and there was a big straw in it that had a hinge that let the straw bend. It was a really long straw.
Hellboy took the drink and gave the waiter a tip.
The waiter paused. "It's mostly just the couples come here."
"Aren't I big enough for a couple?"
The waiter smiled. "Sure. You're plenty big."
"Can I ask you a favor?" the waiter said. "As long as I don't have to get out of this chair."
"How'd you get all those scratches?"
"Oh. Can I, like, have your autograph on a napkin?"
"Got a pen?"
The waiter dug a pen from his coat pocket, gave it to Hellboy, put the napkin on the tray and held it. Hellboy signed. He did it with a flourish.
"Thank you, sir. Are you comfortable?"
"I am. And, may I make a request? When you see this glass go empty, bring another, and every time you do, I'm going to double your tip."
"Yes, sir," said the waiter, and went away.
Hellboy sat, not moving, slowly closing his eyes, sipping his drink lazily through the straw.
* * *
Straight, No Chaser
* * *
Brodie's is the kind of club you rarely come across these days. You know it the moment you step through those art-deco swing doors and breathe deeply: it's in the air, soaked deep into the grain of the bare-wood floorboards, and the scratched tables and the long, oak bar, like seventy years of spilled bourbon; it's in the very fabric of that long, low-ceilinged space. Brodie's is a club where music matters, where the syncopation celebrates the off-step skip and jump of life itself.
You'd never guess it by checking out the finger-snapping, nodding, knowledgeable clientele. They're all dead. But even the dead deserve a nightlife.
For a jazz joint of such high regard, it's a little off the beaten track. On the last leg of his journey, Hellboy stood with his back to St Paul's Cathedral, facing the River Thames as Big Ben chimed midnight, and then raced east to Spitalfields. In the shadow of Nicholas Hawksmoor's mysterious Christ Church, a street visible only for five minutes led into the depths of the quarter where the dead like to hang out. Clubs and pubs and bars sprawled along a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys, lit by neon and flickering torches. And there, overlooking a small, cobbled courtyard, was Brodie's.
Hellboy had barely stepped through the door when an elderly man shambled up, grinning broadly. That was partly because most of his mouth was missing, but there was a definite sparkle in his glassy eyes. He wore a sharp if moldy suit in a 1930s style, and a hat pushed back on his head, a beetle nestling on the brim.
"Not much life in here," Hellboy said.
"You know we've heard that one before?" The man chuckled throatily, did a few sprightly steps, then shook Hellboy's hand. "Been expecting you, my man. The name's Eubie Parkhouse. You want a drink?"
"No time. I'm on a deadline. I need the shoes by dawn or a pretty girl gets her wedding day ruined big time."
"That's a dangerous path you've chosen. Those shoes are powerful mojo. They've been lost for a long time, and some mighty important people round these parts don't want them to be found."
"I've come prepared."
On stage, a tall, thin man tapped the microphone. He had pomaded hair and half his face charred to the bone, but he had the pearly smile of someone who thought they were in heaven. The stage lights came on the instant the band behind him launched into a version of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Eubie snapped his fingers and did another little dance and spin.
Hellboy's attention was drawn to a member of the band. "Hey, isn't that — ?"
"Sure is. You know who has all the best tunes. We got some of the finest jazz- and blues-men ever to grace a stage playing round here on a nightly basis."
Eubie carefully searched the shadowy corners of the club and then whispered, "I help you, I'm putting this club ... everything ... on the line."
"I know that," Hellboy replied. "But I was told you were the only one who could help, and that if I told you why you'd probably do it."
"The music was my life, and it's my death too. Without it ..." Stifling a desperate edge in his voice, he examined his dead hands, the desiccated skin, flesh hanging loosely from the bone. "Let's just say, this whole deal ain't exactly a fat night at Radio City. I think I know what you're going to say, but come on — let's go somewhere quiet."
Eubie led the way through the smoky atmosphere. "You found this old place easy enough?"
"Depends what you call easy. It took me five days, three countries, and a whole mess of breakages to get the next scheduled appearance of the entrance to the Night Quarter."