WHERE I DAREN’T, SEEING WHAT I MUST
least everything had been cleared out of the room by then.
the forensic equipment and the evidence markers and the yellow tape,
all the police and the government agents and the reporters—oh,
the reporters and the endless questions they’d asked about everything
in the room.
room was silent, now, a dead chamber full of books and curiosities,
statuary and bric-a-brac. Full of things but completely devoid of sound,
of movement, of life.
lighting remained the same, the colours, the textures, the smells. The
lamps still glowed, the soft blue light still diffused from the huge
tank of water that dominated one wall. The windows still admitted muted
sunlight, the kind you found in old bookstores and antique shops. A
warmth remained there, but it was distant, the warmth of something that
had sat in the sun and had only just been brought into darkness. The
scent of old things, the scent of time and dust and books, of wisdom
and knowledge still hung in the air, as undisturbed as the dust motes
that floated in the shafts of light. A brown-grey smell, a dry smell,
a comforting smell, tinted ever so slightly by the green of pungent,
salty seawater and the dark, homey blue of an old man’s aftershave.
Nothing had changed, yet nothing was the same.
had been in this room for more than perhaps an hour at a time. They
couldn’t bear it. If they stayed too long, they expected the old
man to walk in at any moment and turn on some music and make his slow,
steady, contemplative course about the room, watering plants and winding
clocks and saying hello to the room’s only other regular occupant,
perhaps turning the pages on the books that still sat quietly in stands
facing the water. Or they expected to come in and see him behind the
desk, poring over dusty tomes or holding a quiet conversation.
all the books sat untouched, the record player silent, the room empty
and quiet and alone. The plants had withered from two weeks of inattention,
the water grown stagnant and murky in the tank.
no-one went in there. They couldn’t. It was the Professor’s
room and with him gone something had grown disturbing and almost frightening
about it. The random agents and employees avoided it like the plague.
Manning never even entered the building any more. Meyers stuck to the
office like a hedgehog in his den. Hellboy made as many excuses as physically
possible to be elsewhere and Liz … Liz wandered the halls almost
incessantly, passing by the door numerous times but never getting up
the courage to walk inside, to break the silence and the stillness.
left only one, whose soft tread made its way slowly and wearily across
the carpet, leaving slightly damp footprints. He stopped at a nearby
bookshelf and reached up one hand to run a finger slowly along the spine
of one of the books. All of these things, the books and the statues
and the furniture, held so many memories. So vivid, so … immediate.
argument with his son about the girl, Liz. Hellboy wanted her to stay.
Wanted him to order her to stay. It wasn’t that easy and it tore
him up to see the complete lack of understanding in those honest golden
eyes. A being so straightforward was lost when it came to dealing with
yes, right before the investigation of that murderous spiritualist.
He’d been there for that row. Hellboy and the Professor hadn’t
spoken to each other for days after that.
removed his hand from the book and continued further into the room until
he came to the desk. Drawing a hand along the corner of the desk brought
up a confusing jumble of sounds and images and impressions, like the
flickering of images on a television screen. He stopped, blinking curiously
at what he saw.
had carefully placed the Professor’s glasses on the desk, right
above the blotter, as though intending the old man to find them there.
Just like the Professor himself had done, countless times.
reached out and stopped, staring at his own pale blue fingers as they
hovered over the glasses. If he reached out and touched them now, he
would know everything. Exactly and in every detail. How the Professor
died. All the circumstances that led to his execution by a single stab
of the Nazi Kroenen’s blade.
they’d asked him to look. Manning had ordered him to do it for
the sake of investigations and records. Meyers had tried to wheedle
him into looking for the sake of closure. Closure. Such tired psychobabble
from someone so young. Hellboy had demanded he show him what had happened
to his father. Liz had begged to know what had happened, her hands pressed
against the glass of the sleeping-tank he’d taken to spending
almost all of his time in.
he’d refused every single time. Some things you have to do for
yourself, else there’s no point. Else you’re doing it for
all the wrong reasons.
was why he stood there now, his hand poised over the one thing that
would answer everyone’s question, the one thing that told him
exactly what he needed to know and exactly what he didn’t want
be too much, he thought. Reading something that witnessed its
owner’s death always is. Just walk away. Don’t do it. It
makes you sick every time. That’s the last thing you need…
fingers grazed the lenses.
disclosed to me the child’s true name. Would you like to know
know … what to call him. I call him … son.”
He could almost hear the Russian mystic’s voice in his ear. Could
see him, for just a second, such madness in his eyes. A soft ticking
on his other side. Kroenen. How did Rasputin even get in there?
much for the Bureau’s much-vaunted security if it couldn’t
keep out a crazy half-possessed magician.
spasmodically, he reached out and grasped the glasses. Now or never.
walked away. All was sounds now, sensations. The Professor had closed
his eyes, his hands resting on the book on its stand before him, his
omnipresent rosary gripped in his right hand. A fire crackled. Music
played softly. He had stilled his thoughts. No point in fighting the
inevitable. Everything had been planned far too well.
ticking grew closer. The sound of breath rasping through a face mask.
His skin crawled involuntarily at that nearness. A hand placed itself
on his left shoulder, fingers curling around it. Cold and dead. The
sound of metal. A blade whipped through the air, once, twice, then a
third time. The hand shifted. So many details, but the last thought
he had was of his son and the knowledge of what he would do in the face
of Rasputin’s plan as a fiery pain stabbed through the back of
his neck, right below his skull and everything… stopped.
Pulled away. Life sucked into the ether in the blink of an eye and he
gasped, falling dizzily to his knees, forcing himself to breathe. Counting
the frantic beats of his heart and fighting to stay conscious. Breathe.
Breathe or you’ll join him. Breathe or it will take you, too.
You’ve done it before. You’ve lived. Every time is a little
closer but you can separate yourself this time. All you have to do is
hand curled round his, almost unbearably hot, and his eyes flew open.
Still fighting to breathe, respirator bubbling madly, he looked up.
Blue-grey eyes looked back at him, patient, concerned, a white face
beneath black hair, sad yet calm in that way people get when someone
else is ill and all they need to do is be there until it passes. She
breathing, Abe,” was all she said, her hand rubbing his back almost
out of habit.
took him a solid five minutes to catch his breath. Every time it took
a little longer and every time he wondered when would be the time that
he wouldn’t recover. No point in worrying about that now. He looked
up, feeling calmer, and met her gaze again.
was a long pause as the two knelt on the carpet, looking at one another.
Presently Liz’s eyes dropped to the glasses. “I won’t
ask you to show me,” she said. “Not unless you want to.”
placed the glasses in her hands. “It was quick,” he said.
“And before he died, he knew … he knew that Rasputin would
nodded. A single tear ran down her cheek. “That’s why he
let them kill him, isn’t it?” She dropped her head, her
fair falling to obscure her face for a moment. Almost without thinking,
he reached out and gently pushed it behind her ear. She looked up at
him, a strange smile playing at the corners of her mouth. He nodded
silently in answer to her question.
pause. They remained still, her gaze on the floor, his on the glasses
in Liz’s hand, and silence fell over the room once again. But
this time the silence failed to unnerve. The spell of death had been
broken. It was just ordinary quiet once again.
gonna be okay?” Liz asked, looking up at him again. A simple question,
but one impossible to answer - did she mean now? Did she mean the days
afterward with the unifying force of their little freak show gone? Did
she mean the years that would pass that would slowly forget the old
man and his rosary?
of them. “I think so,” he answered.
still miss him. I’ll look at pictures of him and they won’t
make any sense any more. Because they aren’t the same.”
nodded, not knowing what to say. Liz took pictures of everything around
her in order to force them to stay still and make sense. The purpose
would be defeated if the subject was now dead.
leaned her head against him and he knew, innately, without looking,
that tears ran down her face even though it never moved. That was normal.
That was Liz. Almost instinctively, they slipped their arms around each
other, two beings seeking out someone else to buffer their own emotions.
water-dwelling creature cannot produce tears.
he let her do it for him.
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