This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
It was more a cathedral than a museum. Every step you took seemed to reverberate endlessly down the empty corridors. You could hear your every breath leaving, every breath entering as you walked. The fabric of your pant legs rustled audibly with every step. Even the slightest whisper of sound was magnified a hundred times over, especially at night, after the crowds had long since left. The silence was overwhelming, so much so that you wanted to scream just to shatter its all-enveloping embrace.
But you didn’t. There was a presence here, one that never left even when the place was full of tourists during the day. They felt it too; they kept their voices low and confidential with one another as they moved from exhibit to exhibit. It was an undeniable something that demanded respect from those who entered its halls. Ellis Island had far fewer problems with its visitors than its fellow New York landmarks. Granted, some of it had to be attributed to its isolated location, but there was something holy here, and you just simply knew to behave yourself when you landed on its shore. You simply knew.
Peg Wisdom smiled to herself as she checked a set of locked doors. She liked working here. A lot of people were uncomfortable with the idea of spending an entire night out on the Island. They didn’t care for being cut completely off from New York. She on the other hand preferred it. It was quiet, peaceful, and gave you plenty of time to sit back and just think about things. And the shift differential was pretty nice, too, when you got down to it. There were worse jobs to be had. She knew that from past experience.
On a whim she stopped in front of the Ancestry Database and entered her family’s original name. Her great-grandparents had been none too pleased to discover that their last name and its proud heritage had been bastardized on the whim of a tired, overwhelmed clerk. Legend had it that the clerk had chosen their new surname "as the better part of wisdom", but as Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa knew no English back then, no one could be sure. Just as well, she thought to herself as their names popped up on the screen. Peg Wyzdanzywski would have been a bear to put on a driver’s license or job application.
It gave Peg a good feeling to see her family’s name on the computer. It gave her some sort of connection with the place, some odd, comforting sense of belonging. She’d often toyed with writing some sort of story about her family and their adventures in the New World, but there never seemed to be time. And when there was time, she never seemed to feel like doing it. It was only when she was here that the urge—no, the need—to put her heritage on paper became insistent.
Peg patted the screen in benediction and moved on, ambling through the first-floor exhibits until she came to the front door. A full moon’s luminescence gave the outside world a distinct if somewhat pale appearance. The bay’s water sloshed and danced against the pier; the sidewalks seemed almost icy in their whiteness. Across the pier she could see the dilapidated remains of the old infirmary, the moonlight pouring through the holes in the roof and shattered windows. It was a sad, tattered reminder of old times, sitting like an old, forgotten dowager in contrast to the magnificence of the renovated hall across the way. There had been talk of performing a similar work on the place, but nothing concrete had been set, so to speak.
Peg Wisdom shook her head sadly as she turned away. It was such a shame that the entire place couldn’t have been fixed up at once. The infirmary looked just as sad and abandoned as that little boy who was standing in front of it. Why couldn’t the backers have gotten just a bit more money, put a bit more effort into it…?
Peg’s eyes widened. She whirled around and pressed her face and hands against the window. Her subsequent gasp made a foggy oval on the glass, which she quickly wiped away. As a last-ditch effort, she turned away, blinked three times, wiped her eyes for added measure, and looked again. But the waif was still standing there across the pier, almost stone-like in the pale moonlight.
Despite her better judgement, Peg reached for her keys, opened the door, and stepped outside. The sharp November wind sliced through her despite the heavy coat she wore, making her shiver. It didn’t seem to bother the boy, though. As she slowly walked down the stairs toward the pier, he continued to stand perfectly still, his eyes following her every move as she began to close the distance between them.
The hairs on the back of Peg’s neck slowly stood up. There was something eerie about the whole situation. She shivered again, but this time it had nothing to do with the wind. One step, two steps, three steps, four. She was close enough now to make out the buttons on his threadbare shirt, to see that instead of a belt he wore a thick length of rope. The coat was totally inadequate for weather like this. And—good Lord—she could see his toes sticking out of the front of what might laughably be called his shoes.
She was about five feet away. He continued to watch her approach, but remained motionless. Peg wondered what to do next. Should she say something? Would he understand her? Should she call for backup—come to think of it, why hadn’t she called her shift partner in the first place? Where had he come from? He looked as though he’d stepped right out of one of those books they sold in the gift shop…
The boy took a step forward. Peg Wisdom froze in her tracks. He took another step, then another. As he slowly passed by her, he continued to look into her eyes. At one point she could have reached out and touched him, but she was too unnerved to even try. His face was utterly expressionless as he crossed over to the museum side of the island and started up the stairs…then stopped as if he’d hit some sort of brick wall. He struggled to take another step forward, to no avail. As Peg watched, his shoulders slowly slumped, and then he took a few steps backward, away from the main building. Now he walked along the edge of the pier up to the point where the island opened up to the Atlantic.
Peg shook herself out of her reverie and hurried over to where the boy stood. He was gazing intently at the New York skyline, apparently oblivious to her presence. But suddenly he turned around to face her, and Peg Wisdom gasped again at what she saw. His eyes were filled with a desperate longing so intense, so overwhelming that she wanted to cry out to the night and break down in tears.
And then he was gone.
Peg Wisdom blinked and slowly turned around in a full circle. There was no sign of him, not even by the infirmary. She scratched her head and shivered again, wondering what the devil had just happened and how on earth she could report this. Would anyone believe her?
"Here we go!" Janine Melnitz pointed triumphantly at the Ancestry Database screen. "Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa Horowitz, 1921, from Russia, and their daughter Rachel. My grandmother!"
"Pretty neat," Winston Zeddemore nodded. "So you’re third-generation American, huh?"
"On their side. The Melnitz side’s been here a bit longer." Janine requested a print with a touch of the screen. "Grandma used to tell us stories of what it was like coming over. They left Russia when it got nasty, y’know, but they barely knew any English. Grandma learned quickly, though. She was about twenty and pretty." A smile crossed her lips. "She must have been a bit wild, too. Mom used to shush her whenever she got into post-immigration life, and once I got into her attic and found some flapper outfits. But Grandpa settled her down some."
"Wild Russian redheads," Peter Venkman chuckled. "My kind of women."
"Every woman is ‘your kind of woman’, Dr. Venkman," Janine shot back. "How about you, Winston? You want to give it a try?"
"Nah. We didn’t get here through Ellis. How about you, Pete?"
Peter shook his head. "According to my father, the Venkman family came to America through the back door. We had to—something about making a hasty retreat from the Canadians."
"Any truth to it?" Winston said.
"Hey, this is Dad talking. Who knows?"
"I wonder when Egon and Ray will be finished," Janine said, glancing around the crowded hall. "I’m getting hungry."
"There’s no telling," Winston replied. "Remember, they’ve got to be inconspicuous—we’re not here officially."
"Egon and Ray, inconspicuous?" Peter said. "That’s not a word I tend to associate with those two. Oops, here they come," he added, nodding toward the approaching pair. They truly looked like the proverbial odd couple, with Egon Spengler’s lanky frame and wild mane of blond hair contrasting sharply with Ray Stantz’s compact build and neatly-trimmed auburn coiffure. "Okay, Janine, play innocent. Don’t let Mad Scientist suspect us."
"Oh, bite me, Doctor Venkman," she hissed under her breath.
"How’d it go?" Winston asked, hiding a grin.
"Not well, as I feared," Egon said, shaking his head. "We took as many readings around the site as we could, but unfortunately there’s too strong an overall spiritual presence associated with the place. It would be similar to finding one distinct individual heading down Broadway at five p.m."
"We tried to get closer to the old infirmary, where Janine’s friend had first spotted the ghost, but security wouldn’t let us," Ray added. "Unless we can get authorization to investigate further, I don’t think there’s much more we can do."
"Which means it’s time to apply the old Venkman charm to the appropriate parties," Peter said breezily. "Let me at ‘em. I’ll have them eating out of my hand in no time."
"I’ll settle for eating off a plate," Janine retorted. "Right now!"
It took awhile, but Peter eventually charmed his way into a brief appointment with the museum adminstrator. His office was so cramped and cluttered though, that out of the four Ghostbusters, only Peter and Ray were able to enter. Janine took instant advantage of the situation by grabbing Egon’s arm and escorting him deeper into the museum; Winston opted for waiting outside, standing at the edge of the walkway and staring out at the breathtaking skyline of New York. Gulls soared and screeched across the water, diving for scraps left by the thousands of tourists that came and went daily. Boats of all shapes and sizes pushed through the turbulant, brilliantly blue waters.
Winston huddled a bit more into his coat, trying to protect himself from the icy gusts that whipped around the island. He strolled slowly around the main building, trying to imagine what it must have been like a hundred or so years ago. In his mind's eye he could see them, men and women from a hundred different lands, pouring out of the too-cramped boats onto the island, their skin colors mixing from white, black, yellow, and a million shades in between into one chaotic mass. It must have been some sort of modern-day Babel, he mused, almost hearing the cacophony of languages as families gathered together for the medical inspections, the questions, and the terrifying moment when the realization of all their hopes and dreams rested on the decision of a single man.
He wondered how it felt to be rejected and sent back home on a boat much like the one that had brought him here, or worse yet, sent to the infirmary or detained--to be trapped here, able to see the freedom of the New York just beyond one's reach, unable to leave and embrace the life that flowed all around Ellis Island.
He decided that it must have sucked big time.
Michael Schwartz looked up from his computer monitor and motioned for the Ghostbusters to sit down in the only two chairs that were visible. The office was an incredible sargasso of paperwork, binders and bric-a-brac; it was a wonder you could find anything in it. "I suppose you’re wondering why we’re here," Peter began smoothly.
"I imagine it’s got something to do with the ghost boy," the administrator replied as he fished around for a pen. "He’s hardly a secret around here. Everyone who’s worked the graveyard shift has seen him sooner or later, including me. I’m just sorry Ms. Wisdom didn’t discuss this with us before she called you."
"That’s okay," Peter smiled. "We weren’t busy today, and I’ve always meant to visit Ellis. Besides, it never hurts to scout out a potential call."
"I’m afraid there’s no ‘potiental call’ to be found here, Dr. Venkman," Schwartz said. Having finally found a pen, he scribbled his signature on the last page of a sheaf of papers and put them atop the "out" pile. "If we’d wanted your services, we would have requested them."
"You don’t see this ‘ghost boy’ as a problem, then?" Peter questioned before Ray could jump in. He’d spotted the telltale signs of a Stantz Rant building up, and right now a confrontation would be the worst possible move.
Schwartz snagged his cup and shrugged as he went over to his personal coffee pot. "It started about six months ago. I suppose you read about the court decision regarding the Island?"
"Refresh my memory," Peter suggested.
Schwartz leaned forward. "At one time, Ellis Island was one of the landmarks creating the state line between New York and New Jersey. I’m talking about this part of the island--the part on which this museum rests. When the government made Ellis a central immigration depot, it quickly became apparent there wasn't enough room to handle the influx of aliens. The solution was to create a landfill across the way and build on that. They placed the hospital, maintenance areas and what-have-you over there.
"When the decision was made to renovate the Main Building, the two states got into a disagreement over ownership of the newer section of the island. After several years, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Jersey."
"That figures," Peter smirked. "New York gets the island, Jersey gets the landfill."
Schwartz blinked in confusion for a moment, then nodded and continued. "New Jersey set to work on stabilizing the structures on its side--it was necessary, because otherwise within ten years the buildings would have collapsed forever. Shortly after their crews began working on the old hospital ediface, the ghost boy, as we've come to call him, started popping up at night.
"He appears every night or two. He goes from the old hospital to the plaza out back, then vanishes. He doesn’t harm anything—no slime, nothing damaged. He doesn’t talk or acknowledge anyone. Just stares out at the New York shoreline." He sipped at his coffee, grimaced slightly, then examined the pot carefully. A second later, he plugged it back into the wall socket and returned to his desk.
"Sounds like you’ve had firsthand experience," Peter said.
Schwartz nodded. "After we got the first few reports from the night watch, I stuck around a few nights. We’ve never officially reported it—you can imagine what the reaction would be."
"The guard said the boy looked very upset," Ray said with a slight edge in his voice. "In our experience, disturbed spirits can eventually cause a great deal of trouble if they aren’t dealt with early on. Egon—Doctor Spengler—and I would like to spend a night out here and witness the manifestation first-hand."
"I’m afraid that’s out of the question," Schwartz said, cutting Ray off.
"Doctor Stantz, do you know what two words come to mind when most people in my position hear the word ‘Ghostbusters’?" Schwartz asked.
" ‘Our Heroes’?" Peter quipped.
"Try ‘property damage’." Schwartz shook his head. "Don’t take this the wrong way, gentlemen, but you have a reputation for getting a bit…messy…in the course of your work." He waved a hand around the room. "Do you know how much it cost to renovate this building alone? Do you really think we want to spend additional money repairing the damage your ray-gun blasts generate? And what if one of those beams hits some of the priceless historical artifacts we have on display here?"
"Mr. Schwartz, I can promise you that our interest is solely in documenting this manifestation," Ray replied. "We’ve already taken several readings today, and the spiritual presence around this island is strong enough that we can’t narrow the focus with our equipment to find this one spirit. And we wouldn’t want to risk agitating the overall presence with any attempt to capture the boy."
"Glad to hear it." The curator leaned back in his chair. "And tell me what happens if, by ‘documenting’ this spirit, you anger it—or this overall presence you described—and cause it to lash out, thereby creating the very situation you swore you wanted to avoid?" Schwartz shook his head again. "I do sympathize, Doctor Stantz. I’ve looked into that poor boy’s eyes…if it were in my power, I’d do anything I could to remedy the situation. But I will not permit any action that might risk damaging the site."
"Look, we don’t always go in guns blazing," Ray pleaded. "Many times we’ve found that if we’re able to resolve the situation that keeps the spirit tied to the site, it’s able to disperse peacefully. If this spirit is as unhappy as you yourself say, then aren’t you somewhat obligated as a human being to help it find some peace?"
"Believe me, Doctor Stantz, I don't enjoy telling you no," Schwartz said, holding up his hands. "But my moral obligations don’t permit me to give you official access and open ourselves up to all kinds of legal problems. Just getting permission would require more phone calls and red tape than I care to think about—all this for a ghost that for many people don’t exist and isn’t causing any problems other than spooking a few night watchpersons!"
"What if we just showed up—no equipment, no scanners, nothing?" Peter offered. "We sit down, wait for Junior to show up, watch him do his thing, and go home? We basically play night watchmen? That wouldn’t create any trouble, would it?"
"The Federal Government would call it trespassing," Schwartz noted.
"Only if we get caught," Peter replied with a grin.
Schwartz rubbed his chin, mulling Peter’s suggestion carefully. "I’m sorry," he said at last. "I can’t authorize this. I appreciate your concern, Doctor Venkman, Doctor Stantz, but we can’t give your request official sanction."
"But…" Ray began, but Peter was already rising to his feet, shaking Schwartz’s hand and guiding his partner out the door.
Janine, Egon and Winston spotted the pair emerging and hurried over to them. "Hey, guys," Peter said.
"So what did he say?" Janine asked.
"He said no," Ray replied, shoulders slightly slouched.
"That’s unfortunate," Egon said solemnly. "This would have been an excellent research opportunity."
Janine smacked him. "It’s more than that, Egon—it’s a chance to let that poor boy rest in peace!" She turned to confront a grinning Peter Venkman. "So, what are we going to do about this?"
"Officially, we can’t do a thing."
"Officially," Janine echoed, the ghost of a smile on her lips.
"Officially," Peter confirmed.
"So--again--what’s next, Doctor Venkman?"
Peter looked around conspiratorially. "Anyone know where we can borrow a boat?"
Despite his apprehension, Winston could not help but feel a zing of exhilaration as the camouflaged cigarette boat flew just above the waterline of New York Bay. The moist night air stung his skin with a million tiny needles, aided by the chilly wind that seemed to pass through his coat and clothing to strike his very bones. Shivering, he walked carefully up to the pilot's position, where Officer Nikki Patterson, NYPD, was standing steady at the wheel.
"You sure you won't get in trouble over this?" he shouted.
She flashed a perfect set of teeth at him. "Nah," she replied just as loudly. The misty air seemed to give her soft dark skin an electric sheen. "This thing's been impounded for years--you wouldn't believe how many cops have taken it out for a spin in that time!"
"Where'd you learn to pilot a boat?"
She laughed at the question. "There's a lot you don't know about me, Winston Zeddemore. Yet." She let the last word hang there for a long time before smiling coyly at him and returning her attention to the approaching Ellis Island.
Shaking his head, Winston returned to where the others were sitting. Peter grinned at his partner. "Winston's got a girlfriend," he teased in a sing-song voice.
"Shut up, Pete," but the words were gentle. In a desperate attempt to change the subject, Winston turned to Ray and Egon. "So, what's the plan?"
"Basically, watch and wait," Ray replied, huddling in his parka. "Without our equipment, we're going to have to rely on visual confirmation and observation. Wish we could have brought a video camera for documentation," he added wistfully.
"That's the kind of thing that could be used in our trespassing trial, Ray," Peter pointed out.
"Hopefully this won't be a long wait," Egon said. "Our interviews indicated that the ghost usually manifests between two and three a.m." He consulted his watch. "It's almost one-thirty."
"Nikki says she'll hop head over to Liberty and wait for us to call her on the radios," Winston said. "Man, I hope she doesn't get in trouble for helping us out."
"You know, Zee, there's really no need for all of us to get stuck waiting for Ghost Boy all night," Peter said with a knowing grin. "Maybe you ought to stay on the boat as backup. Just in case."
"Shut up, Pete." The notion tempted Winston severely, but he wasn’t about to admit that to anyone, much less Peter. He’d never hear the end of it, for one thing.
The Ghostbusters watched as Ellis Island grew larger with every passing second. Nikki slowed the boat down, watching carefully for any signs of pursuit or trouble as she guided the craft into the docking area.
"Here you go, guys," she called as she cut the engines. "All ashore."
"Thanks again, Officer," Peter nodded as he followed Egon and Ray off the boat. "We'll make sure this is worth your while later." He nudged Winston in the ribs--accidentally, of course--as he jumped over to the pier.
"You didn't have to do this," Winston said to the petite policewoman.
"My pleasure," she said with a soft smile. "I'll be waiting over by Liberty. You be careful, and when you're ready, give me a whistle." Her eyes fluttered in clear flirtation. "You do remember how to whistle, don't you? Just put your lips together and blow…" Her lips brushed against his for just a heartbeat before she turned away and headed back to the captain's chair.
Winston jumped over to join his partners, hoping they couldn't see his furious blush. The look on Peter's face confirmed his worst suspicions.
"Winston's got a girlfriend…"
"Oh, shut up."
Time trudged along. Egon and Ray huddled together, exchanging suggestions and ideas in quiet whispers that revealed themselves in the tiny clouds floating just in front of their faces. Winston and Peter spent the long minutes marching back and forth along the edge of the pier in an attempt to generate body heat. "What if Junior decides not to show up tonight?" Winston said through chattering teeth.
"Dunno. Keep thinking good thoughts. I don't want to try and pull this off a
second night with a group of guards that isn't quite as sympathetic as Peg
Wisdom's bunch," Peter replied.
"Got that right." Winston stared intently at the ruined infirmary, as if sheer will power could make the boy manifest.
"Watched pots never boil," Peter pointed out helpfully.
"Don't talk about boiling. Reminds me how cold I am."
"Okay." Peter rubbed his nose and sighed. "I'm going to walk around back."
"Why? Think he'll pop up there?"
Peter shook his head. "Personal business. Too much coffee and that bumpy boat ride."
"Ah. Have fun."
"There." Ray's gloved hand shot out just past Egon's nose, pointing to the edge of the docking bay. The ghost boy was slowly shimmering into existence, his pale eyes watching the assembled Ghostbusters quietly.
"Ray, turn the videocam on," Egon muttered. "Rats," he corrected himself a moment later, remembering their lack of equipment.
Winston slowly walked over to join his comrades, his eyes never leaving the boy. "Looks like we hit paydirt first time out, huh, guys?"
"So it would appear." Egon followed the boy's progress around the bay. "Where's Peter?"
"Around back. He had to…take care of something."
Ray's eyes widened. "Around back? Why didn't we think of that, Egon? This is great!"
"Whoa, Ray," Winston breathed. "What's great? What are you talking about?"
The Ghostbuster's eyes were bright with anticipation. "That's where the ghost ends up every night! Peter's in perfect position to make contact with him!"
"Man, it's cold." Peter wrapped his arms around himself and tried not to think about the warm bed that lay waiting for his return at the firehouse. His breath puffed out in frigid clouds as he rubbed his arms briskly. "Next time I'll volunteer to keep Officer Gorgeous company…" His voice trailed off as he saw the ghost boy walking slowly toward him.
Peter was no stranger to poverty, having grown up with practically nothing. Nonetheless, the ragged jacket and threadbare pants the spectral child was wearing hit him hard. His shoes were practically in two pieces, barely stitched together. But most of all, it was the boy's expression that all but overwhelmed the Ghostbuster. It was a face made of equal parts despair and desire as he stared toward the bright lights of New York City, and it radiated such intensity that even Peter's well-hidden heart was touched.
The boy stopped at the edge of the walkway, seemingly ignorant of Peter's presence. Venkman licked his lips, trying to think of a way to reach the spirt, make some sort of contact. Only one thing came to mind: "Hi."
The ghost didn't react.
Peter took another deep breath and plunged on. "Come here often? I heard you do, but I decided to see for myself. My name's Pete. You got a name?" Nothing. "Okay. Probably couldn't pronounce it even if you told me. What if I just call you…" His mind raced. "…Ellis? How's Ellis?"
The spirit didn't seem to care one way or the other. From the corner of his eye Peter could see the others taking up position about fifty yards away. "So, Ellis…you must really want to go over there, huh? Check out the Big Apple, see if the hype's true? Well, it is for the most part. City never sleeps, I can assure you. Million different things to see or do. And the people…you know, New York's just like this place. Everyone comes in and makes their way from there.
"It must really suck to be stuck here."
Suddenly the boy turned to face Peter. His eyes were wide, almost seemingly brimming with tears. His mouth opened, his lips moved, but no sound came out. But the message was there, all too obvious for Peter.
"I know," he said quietly. "I know what it's like to want something, and have it just out of reach. I know how much it hurts, kid."
The ghost nodded, once.
Peter took a step forward. "Look, Ellis. You're free now. No one can hurt you. You can go anywhere you want. No one can stop you but yourself. You can leave this place and…get to where you need to be. Let it go. Go on." He pointed to the city, all golden and glittering in the night.
The boy's mouth moved again, his head shaking back and forth. And then…a second later he was gone, vanished in the span of a heartbeat. Peter stood there dumbfounded as the others ran up to join him. "Did you make contact, Peter?" Ray asked breathlessly. "Were you able to talk to him?"
"What was the boy wearing?" Egon demanded. "Can you identify the clothing style?"
"Whoa, whoa!" Winston interrupted, blocking the overeager scientists from disturbing Peter further. "Give the man a minute to process, okay? Ray, get on the horn to Nikki and tell her to come pick us up. We can debrief back at the Firehouse, where it's warm! Okay? Get moving!" Startled, Ray hurried to obey, with Egon accompanying him.
Winston turned and studied his buddy carefully. Peter looked a bit stunned by his ordeal, but most amazing was the tear that was sliding down his cheek. "Pete? You okay, man?"
Venkman's voice was almost a sob. "That poor kid, Zee. That poor kid…"
Janine had hot chocolate and cookies waiting at the Firehouse. "What I don't get," Winston said as he gave Officer Patterson a steaming mug (their fingers brushing against each other for a wonderful instant), "is why the kid's still there? Like Pete said, he's free now. Nothing should be holding him back to…wherever. So what's going on?"
Egon leaned back in his chair, the steam from his own mug fogging up his glasses. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "Perhaps the ghost feels he's not worthy of freedom."
"Did he say anything to you, Pete?" Ray asked.
Peter had been terribly quiet the entire way back. Janine had taken one look at him and gone maternal, fixing him the biggest cup she could find and putting the sugar cookies with sprinkles on his plate. "No," he said softly with a shake of his head. "Nothing at all. It was more…a feeling. That's all."
"This is rather frustrating," Egon said around a mouthful of cookie. "We have so little to go on, and the lack of sanction is especially crippling. If we had access to the infirmary records, we might be able to determine the spirit's identity over time…"
"Oh, come on!" Janine snapped from nearby; the Ghostbusters turned around as one to face their receptionist. "What difference does that make, Egon? There were millions of kids like him, kids who got sick on those boats and couldn't leave until they either got well or died! Grandma used to tell us about a family that came down with measles on the boat--you wouldn't think it possible, but she said everyone pretty much kept them as far away as possible. The father died, and no one knows what happened to the mother and kids…" She shook her head. "You want to know what I think?"
"Do we have a choice?" Peter said with a faint smile.
Janine returned it with interest, relieved that her favorite sparring partner was coming back. "No, you don't. I think the whole problem is that the boy feels he can't leave Ellis until someone tells him he can--not someone like Doctor Venkman here, but someone in authority! You get someone important over there and give him the okay sign, he'll be off and running!" She paused to catch her breath, slightly embarrassed by the intensity of her speech. "Well," she finally said sheepishly, "that's what I think, anyway."
Egon stared at her. "Janine," he said quietly, "you're incredible."
"About time you noticed, Egon."
"Maybe that's it," Ray mused, reaching for a cookie. "He never got a second chance to be checked out and be given permission to land. So, once the renovators woke him up, he just goes around waiting for a chance that'll never come…"
"…until now," Peter finished.
"Peter, that's not possible," Egon warned.
"We find a way to make it possible."
"Ahhh, I think that's my cue to leave," Officer Patterson said, rising to her feet. "Nice to see you guys again, happy to help out, but I gotta work tomorrow evening and this girl needs her beauty rest."
"I'll see you out," Winston said quickly. He hurried over to join her and escorted the lovely policewoman down the stairs. The Ghostbusters waited until the couple was out of sight, then turned toward each other again.
"Peter," Egon said, "First off, we don't have any sort of sanction from the Parks Service. You talked to the curator; you know we have next to no chance of getting it."
"We sneak in again," Peter declared defiantly.
"There's also the entire issue of 'granting permission'," Ray continued. "I don't think anything short of a real ceremony is going to do the trick. The entire issue of believability might be key to freeing the boy's spirit."
"So we get someone. Who does the swearing in for immigrants? A judge? We find one, take him over, do the ceremony--the kid goes free." Peter shrugged.
"And I suppose you know of a federal judge who would be willing to listen to us, and moreover, go along with this scheme?" Egon demanded.
"I do." Janine stepped forward, a smug smile on her face. "And in exchange for a night of dinner and dancing, Egon, I can get him to come along."
"Nope," the redhead grinned. "I'm Uncle Murray's favorite niece."
"That still leaves the issue of permission," Ray pointed out.
"Let me talk to Schwartz again. Maybe Janine's uncle can talk to him too, and who knows, maybe he'll see reason," Peter argued. "Look, guys, we gotta do something. You didn't see him, talk to him. I really feel like we need to resolve this."
"All right," Egon conceded. "We'll give it a try." Just then a slightly-abashed Winston returned from downstairs. Janine, Ray and Peter glanced at one another and grinned viciously.
"Winston's got a girlfriend, Winston's got a girlfriend…"
This time the trip was made by more official means; Federal Judge Murray Melnitz had an abundance of contacts within the NYPD and was able to get a boat freed up for the trip. "I can't thank you enough for this, Uncle Murray," Janine said, kissing the old man on the cheek.
"Young lady, you ever ask for anything like this again, the answer is no, favorite niece or not," the magistrate grumbled. "At this hour of the night, men my age are either sleeping or dead. So, tell me, Janny, which one of these boys is your sweetheart?" Janine pointed Egon out and Murray shook his head. "Your mother is going to die a thousand deaths, to see her daughter pass up all those nice doctors and lawyers for a goyim…"
Nearby, Winston found himself standing beside none other than Nikki Patterson. "How did you end up here?" he asked, delighted.
"Volunteered," she grinned. "Someone had to escort the Judge." She leaned closer to him. "Winston, is this really going to work?"
He shrugged. "Egon and Ray seem to think it will. And given some of the schemes I've seen them come up with, it's got as good a chance as any if not more." He looked over toward the front of the boat, where Peter was standing a solitary vigil. "I hope it does work, Nikki. For Pete's sake if nothing else."
Michael Schwartz was waiting at the dock. "Welcome to Ellis Island," he said, shaking Judge Melnitz' hand. He looked over at Peter. "I've got everything prepared, as you asked."
"Thanks." Peter came over and shook the other man's hand. "I appreciate your letting us try this."
Schwartz shook his head. "You didn't bring your weapons, and it sounds like a fairly low-risk venture, other than all of us freezing to death." He gave the Ghostbuster a cup of coffee from a nearby table. "And…like I said, I saw the boy once, myself. I figured he deserves a chance to be free."
Winston and Officer Patterson came up to the table. "So how did you clear this with the Government?" the Ghostbuster asked.
"Quite simple. I didn't."
"Elegant solution," Peter observed. "Very effective, too."
"Only if I don't lose my job," Schwartz noted. "If you'll follow me, we can be all prepared for our guest of honor."
"Assuming he shows up tonight," Winston said.
"I believe he will," Egon noted from just behind the group. "Ray and I have been out here every night for the last two weeks…"
"We took ECTO-2," Ray jumped in helpfully.
"…and the pattern established itself rather quickly, even if we can't determine a reason for it. The ghost will manifest tonight."
"Well," said Judge Melnitz, clapping his hands together for warmth, "let's get this show on the road."
It seemed to take forever for the boy-ghost to appear; the small crowd standing before the podium huddled together for warmth and comfort against the cold, misty air. Voices were kept to slight whispers, the words seen as small vapory puffs against the night sky. Peter Venkman stood a slight distance from the gathering, his eyes fixed on the spot where he knew the spirit would appear.
When the boy finally came into view, walking haltingly along the path that ran around the main building, Peter took a deep breath and stepped forward. "Hey, Ellis," he called softly. "It's me, Pete Venkman. You remember me?"
The ghost paused in its journey. His eyes regarded Peter carefully, as if struggling to recall their last encounter. Not far away, Winston Zeddemore muttered a prayer under his breath and crossed his gloved fingers as best he could.
"Yeah, we talked awhile back," Peter continued breezily. "Well, my friends and I got to talking, and we think we've got a solution to your problem. Come on." He motioned for the boy to follow him; the spirit hesitated, unsure of how to handle this drastic break in his eternal routine. "It's okay, Ellis," Peter said quietly. "We're going to set you free from here, once and for all."
The small crowd watched as the ghost-child took one, two, three slow steps toward Peter. The path leading to the podium and Judge Melnitz could have been no more than a hundred yards, but their journey seemed to take forever. At long last, though, ghost and judge stared at one another, neither quite sure of what to do next.
"Come on, Uncle Murray," Janine hissed.
Judge Melnitz nodded. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have been called here to provide special dispensation to this young man, who has been waiting a long, long time to be granted permission to leave this island for the New World." He stared down at the boy, whose face was still despairing, but for the first time a small flickering of hope could be seen in his eyes. "Now then, Mr…."
"Ellis," Peter chimed in.
"Ah. Mr. Ellis…"
"Venkman," Peter said loudly.
"Melnitz," Janine said just as loudly.
Judge Melnitz glared at the pair. "For this I stay up past a sane man's bedtime? Enough." He returned his attention to the boy. "Mr. Ellis Smith, by the authority vested in me by the United States Government, I do hereby grant you full permission to leave Ellis Island for the mainland of our fair country, there to seek your destiny." He proffered an official-looking document; the ghost reached out, and to everyone's shock took it firmly in hand. "Welcome to the United States, son," Melnitz said softly. "I'm sorry it took so long for you to join us, but we're glad to have you."
The ghost turned toward Peter; his expression, once so dark with despair, was now fairly radiating with sheer joy. His lips moved briefly, and Venkman nodded and smiled in reply. With that, the boy slowly rose into the air, his body glowing more brightly by the moment, and with a sudden burst of movement he headed toward the lights of New York City. The Ghostbusters and the other guests watched the aura as long as they could, until it had vanished within the haze of the city's glow.
"Awright," Peter whispered softly. "Awright."
Sunrise found Peter and Winston standing at the edge of the walkway, staring out at the just-waking city. "Beautiful, isn't it?" Zeddemore said, drinking in the glorious beauty of the sight.
"Yeah," Peter nodded. "Sure is."
Venkman noded again. "Yeah, I think so. I feel really good, Zee. Really good."
"You did good, man." Winston stared at the skyline. "Wonder where he went."
"Dunno." Peter sighed happily. "That's the whole thing, isn't it?"
Peter shook his head. "All these people who came here, then went on over there. They didn't know where they were going. But it all worked out in the end. I'd bet that it did for Ellis, too."
"I think so, too, partner." Winston slapped his friend on the back and nodded toward the main building. "It's been a long night. Let's head home."
"Okay." Peter took one last look at the sunlight that was peering over the horizon, slowly bathing the New York skyline, and followed his partner, smiling to himself.