Hellboy: Oddest Jobs Page 16

"I understand plenty. You're like any other man, thinking only about himself. You got a beef with the government? Vote."

He laughed. "Vote?"

"Sure. Write a letter or organize a protest. But don't kill two thousand innocent people."

"Nobody listens to a letter."

"Nobody listens to a murderer, either."

We arrived at the school. Will led me to a smashed classroom window. He climbed in first, and I promised to shoot him if he tried to run. We made our way down the hall to another door. He'd jimmied it open with a crowbar. A narrow set of stairs led us down into a large, hot, and humid room dominated by a water tank. He led me between the boiler and the damp concrete wall to a narrow nook with a sump pump and drain in the floor.

"Its down there." Will sat his flashlight down next to the opening and stood back.

I crouched down and pulled the cover off the drain. The egg, an opaque, gelatinous mass about twice the size of a basketball, was at the bottom. I scooped it up with my left hand.

"This is gross." Slime oozed between my fingers. I felt the shape of the merchild inside through the outer film of the egg.

Behind me, metal scraped on concrete. I turned to see Will swinging a length of pipe at me. He struck me hard on the shoulder blades, then again across the center of my back. The egg slipped from my grasp. Growling, I kicked his legs out from under him. He hit the boiler before hitting the floor.

I picked up the egg and made sure it was still intact. The fetus squirmed inside. I stood to kick Will again, but he scurried around the boiler, whimpering. I shifted the egg to my right hand and picked up the flashlight with my left. I went around the boiler. Get up.

Groaning, Will reached up and gently explored the huge knot forming near the top of his forehead. He stood slowly, and then made his way toward the door. I kept the flashlight aimed ahead of him as we navigated the halls.

When we reached the schoolyard, I noticed that the gray on the horizon was shifting to blue. The sun would clear the horizon soon.

"The beach," I told Will. "Hurry up."

The walk didn't take long. Will stopped short when he saw the two groups up ahead. I dropped the flashlight in the sand and shoved him along.

He struggled. "You lied to me!"

"No, you assumed. Keep moving." I dragged him by the arm.

"Wait! Stop it! What are you doing?"

"We're about to make a trade."

Protesting, he dragged his feet. A group of salamanders scurried toward us. Fearless Leader appeared, and I pointed to Will.

"See this guy? Get a whiff of him. Remember that scent. Anybody screws with you again, you leave the other folks in town alone and just hunt down this guy."

Fearless Leader stepped up to Will, inhaled, checked him up and down, then turned to me and nodded.

I handed him the egg. He croaked his thanks.

"But what if it isn't me?" Will squeaked. "What if someone else bothers them?"

"Guess you better make sure that doesn't happen."

He took two steps back, then cut and ran. I let him go. They could find him now, anytime they wanted.

The sun crept over the horizon, glittering off the waves, and I was anxious for another game of charades. I looked at Fearless Leader. "Set the people free, take the egg, and go home." I punctuated this by pointing to the people and the town, the egg, Fearless Leader.

He ran his hand lovingly across the surface of the egg, chattered at his people, then made a circular motion in the air and turned toward the ocean. Silently, the salamanders waded into the waves. The townspeople whispered, quickly escalating to cries of joy and relief.

The humans fled for their homes. A few made awkward attempts at thanking me, but most of them just ran away. Soon as power was restored, the authorities would be notified. Eventually, the Bureau would get a call. It was time for me to go.

I walked south along the shore. The water lapped at my feet. Overhead, seabirds wheeled and squawked. I glanced out at the ocean as the sun broke across it, and wondered what else might be lurking in the depths. What kinds of things did the mermen deal with on their own turf? Something vicious, judging from the coral clubs and turtleshell armor. Maybe they had to fight things much bigger and scarier than human monsters who stole their young.

There are some things I'd rather not know.

I wandered along the beach, wishing for some pancakes.

* * *

The Thursday Men

Tad Williams

* * *

"You know anyone famous named Monday?" Liz asked.

"You mean like Rick Monday? Used to play for the Dodgers back in the '70s?" That was from Ted the technician. I never cared much about baseball myself.

"Okay," said Liz. "So that's one for Monday. And there's Tuesday Weld, the actress."

"I thought of another one — 'Ruby Tuesday,' that Rolling Stones song," said Ted, and began to hum it — or at least he hummed what he thought, in his tuneless way, it sounded like. He's a decent-enough kid and a pretty good tech, but if the B.P.R.D. ever fires him he's not going to be making a living on the pro-karaoke circuit.

"I thought we were going to play cards," I said. "What is all this crap?"

"I've just been thinking about the days of the week and people who have them as names," Liz said. "Wednesday from The Addams Family. Robinson Crusoe's Man Friday."

"No!" shouted Ted. "Has to be Joe Friday! From Dragnet"

"You weren't even alive when that was on," I growled.

Liz went on as if we weren't talking. "And there's Baron Saturday — he's one of the voodoo gods, I guess you'd call them. You know about them, right, HB?"

I have had more than a few strange adventures in the New Orleans area over the years. "Yeah. But that doesn't mean I want to talk about it. What's your point?"

"And Billy Sunday was a famous evangelist or something — my grandmother used to talk about him." She frowned. "But I still can't come up with a Thursday. I don't think there are any."

"Ooh, I thought of one," said Ted. "There's a pretty famous spy book called The Man Who Was Thursday"

"Yeah, but it was just his code name," I pointed out.

Ted looked at me in surprise. "You read G.K. Chesterton?"

"Why, you think I only read comic books?" When you're seven feet tall, literally ugly as sin, and red as a fire truck from head to foot, people always doubt your intellectual credentials. "But I'll give you a real one, if you promise to shut up and play some damn cards. Grayson Thursday. In fact, there were a whole bunch of Thursdays, when you get down to it."

"It doesn't count if nobody's ever heard of them," Liz said, pouting. She makes those grumpy-kid faces, you almost forget she could napalm a city block if the urge took her.

"But it does sound familiar," said Ted. "Why is that?"

"Maybe you read the file," I said, knowing he probably had. The kid studied up on me when he came here like a Yankees fan memorizing all the stats of his favorite player. When it came to my Bureau career, he could tell you the equivalent of my average with runners in scoring position for every year.

Hey, I said I didn't care much about baseball, I didn't say I didn't know anything about it.

I looked at the two of them. They were waiting expectantly. "Crap," I said. "We're not going to play cards, are we?"

"Come on, tell about this Thursday guy," Liz said. "If I know who he is, then maybe it'll count for my list."

"Wait, was that back in the '80s? The guy with the magical grandfather clock?" Ted said. "I think I remember ..."

"Shut it," I suggested. "And keep it shut. I'm the one telling the story."

It was the first time I'd been on the California coast above San Francisco. It's interesting how quick you can go from a place packed with people and lights and car horns and things like that to the middle of nowhere. Once you get about an hour or so north of the Golden Gate Bridge most of it's like that — the kind of place where you realize you've been listening to the seagulls and the ocean all day and not much else. Or at least that's how it was when I went to Monks Point back in early March of 1984. Maybe its different now.

Albie Bayless met me off the B.P.R.D. plane at Sonoma County Airport. Bayless was a former reporter with the San Francisco Examiner who'd retired to his hometown a few years back and taken over the local shopper, the Monks Point Beacon. He'd had some past contact with the B.P.R.D. and me — you remember that Zodiac guy, the murderer everyone says was never caught? No, nobody knows the B.P.R.D. had anything to do with that — I didn't file an official report on that one. Probably never will. Anyway, when Bayless stumbled onto the weird death of Rufino Gentle and what happened after, he called my bosses at the Bureau and suggested they send me out to have a look-see.

Bayless was wearing shorts and had grown a beard. He looked a good bit older and saggier than the last time I'd seen him, but I was there to work with him, not marry him. "Still got that bad sunburn, I see," he said as I came down the ladder. Funny guy. I squeezed into the passenger seat of his car and he filled me in on details along the way. The town was called Monk's Point because there used to be a Russian monastery out on the rocky headland overlooking a dent in the coastline called Caldo Bay. The population of monks had dwindled until the last of them went back to Russia. Later the monastery was turned into a lighthouse when the Caldo Bay fishing industry hit its stride. Those glory days passed too, and the lighthouse was decommissioned in the 1960s. The property on the point now belonged to some out-of-town rich guy who hardly anybody ever saw. But the place itself had a bad reputation going back even before the Russians arrived. The local Indians had been a tribe called Zegrado — which, Bayless informed me cheerfully, was a corruption of the Spanish word for cursed.

As I discovered, cursed and dying were two words that seemed to come up often in almost any conversation about Monk's Point. The reasons became clear when we drove through the center of town, a handful of weathered plank buildings beside a tiny harbor at the mouth of Caldo Bay. Half a dozen shops, a coffee joint, and a bar made up the business district, along with a few other stores that looked like they'd been boarded up for a while. I doubt there were a thousand people in total living in the place. Things had gone downhill since the cannery closed. The town's young people were leaving as soon as they were old enough, and except for Albie Bayless, no one was moving back in.

"Everybody always says the place is dying," Bayless told me as we waited for a dog to cross the main street in front of our car. "But they still get upset when someone actually dies — at least when there's no good explanation for it. That's what happened here last week. A kid named Gentle — Rufino Tamayo Gentle, hows that for a name? — was out here with some friends. I guess Gentle and his buddies were troublemakers by small-town standards, but nothing too bad — a couple of busts for pot and loitering, some suspicion of breaking into tourists' cars. Anyway, on a bet, young Gentle climbed over the fence and went up to the famous haunted house. His friends waited for him. He never came back, never showed up for school. One of the kids mentioned it to a teacher. Result was, a local cop came by, cut off the bolt and walked up to the house. He found young Gentle standing on the front path, head slumped like he'd fallen asleep standing up. Body was stone cold — he'd been dead for hours."

"Standing up?"

"That's what the cop swears. He's not the type to make things up, either."

"You said one of the kid's friends told a teacher. What about Gentle's parents? Didn't they notice he didn't come back?"

Bayless smirked. "You'll have to meet the kids dad. There's a piece of work."

"Okay," I said, "dead standing up is definitely an interesting trick, but it isn't why you called us, is it?"

"Nope. That would be Rufino's escape. But first I'm gonna take you to my place, get you some dinner."

Just a half mile or so past not-so-bustling midtown, Bayless pulled up to a gate across a private road. It was surrounded by weeds and sawgrass and looked like it didn't get opened much. Beyond it a long, curving driveway led away toward the top of the hill. The house itself, the ex-monastery, was mostly hidden from view behind the headland but the lighthouse loomed in clear view, pale as a mushroom. The windows at the top went all the way around, yet the impression was of someone looking away from you, staring out over the sea — someone you didn't want to disturb, and not just out of courtesy.

"I don't like it," I said.

"You're not alone," said Bayless. "Nobody likes it. Nobody ever has. The local Indians hated the place. The monks only stayed about thirty years, then they all went back to Russia, saying the place was unholy, and nobody's actually lived in it since. Even the guy who owns it now hardly ever shows up."

Albie Bayless had a mobile home on the outskirts of town — not a trailer, but one of those things that look pretty much like a house with tin sides. He kept it up nice and he wasn't too bad a cook, either. As I listened to him I spooned up my bowl of chili. He made his with raisins and wild mushrooms, which actually worked out pretty good.

"The reason the dad didn't report his son missing is that he's a drunk," Albie said. "Bobby Gentle. Supposedly an artist, but hasn't sold anything that I know of. One of those bohemian types who moved here in the '60s. Kid's mother left about five or six years back. Sad."

"But that's not why you called us."

"I'm coming to it. So they found the kid dead, like I told you. No question about it. No pulse, body cold. Took him to the local medical examiner over in Craneville and here's the good part. The body got up off the examination table, sort of accidentally slugged the examiner—it was thrashing around a lot, I think— and escaped."

"So he wasn't actually dead."

Albie fixed me with a significant look. "Think again, Kemo Sabe. This was after the autopsy."

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