|Chapter One||Chapter Two||Chapter Three||Chapter Four||Chapter Five||Chapter Six||Chapter Seven||Chapter Eight||Chapter Nine||Chapter Ten|
Janine Melnitz followed a strict routine every morning: let the alarm go off, hit the snooze alarm, sleep until the alarm went off again, and hit the snooze alarm one more time. When the buzzer went off for the third and final time, she would at long last stagger out of bed, grab a hot shower, then wrap her old battered robe around her, slide her fuzzy pink slippers into place and head into the kitchen for breakfast.
As she ate (bagel with butter, slice of melon, two cups of jasmine mint tea), Janine would scour the newspaper intently. When satisfied that Ann Landers had the world’s problems in hand and that Trudeau still wasn’t funny, she would slip on her standard “mess with me at your own risk” business outfit and hurry downstairs to the street, where one of Uncle Sol’s cabs would be waiting patiently for her.
Janine liked using the trip to the office to simply stare outside the window and reflect on life in general. She never tired of the ever‑changing yet still‑the‑same panorama of brownstones, small businesses, schools and churches that made up Brooklyn. Peter had harped on her for ages to leave the borough for something more suitable—he himself had taken a swank condo in Upper Manhattan, though he rarely saw the place—but Janine insisted on staying at her small apartment. Brooklyn was where she felt at home, where she belonged.
Though she did buy the building and made the repairs that the former landlord had been forever promising to make but never followed through upon. Money did have its privileges.
As the cab glided slowly over the Brooklyn Bridge, Janine’s thoughts drifted towards Egon. The smile that always fell into place at the mention of his name emerged in her reflection on the window. The past six months had been so wonderful, so much better than she’d ever hoped or dreamed they could be. Part of her feared that someday the dream would end—but another, deeper part of her knew better.
She still remembered the night that Peter had made his announcement. At the end of the party, Egon had shyly asked her if she needed a ride home. Surprised, she’d stammered yes and quickly found herself sitting beside him in a cab that was apparently in no hurry to reach Brooklyn.
Egon’s eyes had drifted ahead, outside the window, over his shoulder—anywhere except towards her. Finally, he cleared his throat and smiled weakly. “I ... there’s something we need to talk about, Janine.”
“I’m listening, Egon.” Her heart was thumping wildly in fear, excitement, and anticipation.
“We’ve...known each other ... for a long time...” His eyes studied his shoes intently. “And I’ve been aware of ... certain ... feelings you’ve had for me...”
“I care a great deal about you, Egon,” she said, taking his hand in hers.
Suddenly his eyes was locked onto hers, gazing with a depth and intensity that startled her. “I care a great deal about you, too. Janine ... I love you.”
She gave a startled gasp and felt her eyes rise into giant saucers. “Egon?”
“I said I love you, Janine.” To her surprise she felt him trembling. “I have for a long time ... I just never could bring myself to say it before ... I don’t know why.”
“Oh, Egon...” Janine smiled and slipped a hand against his cheek. “I never dared to hope...”
”I love you,” he repeated, and pulled her into a long, tender embrace that lasted until they’d reached her apartment—and for some time beyond that.
* * * * *
“Miss Melnitz?” The voice of the cabbie jolted Janine from her pleasant reverie; to her surprise, they’d arrived at Trump Tower. It seemed only fitting that Peter Venkman had chosen the site as the central office for Ghostbusters, International. Ostentatious, luxurious, impossible for even a blind man to miss—and thanks to a few poltergeists from a few years back, the rent was reasonable. It was a combination that no Venkman could resist.
Janine paid her fare and added a hefty tip. “Thanks again, Tony—by the way, how’s Teri doing?”
“Just fine, Ms. Melnitz—baby’s coming along right on schedule.”
“Good.” She fished out two more twenties and handed them to the surprised cabby. “Take her somewhere special tonight, on me. Pregnant women need constant pampering.”
“Sure thing, Ms. Melnitz. Thanks again!” She waved gaily as the cab pulled out into Fifth Avenue, quickly becoming engulfed in the morning traffic jam. Strange, that no matter how late Janine was in getting to the cab, Tony was always able to get her to work on time. She’d have to remember to thank Uncle Sol for sending him.
A quick elevator trip to the thirteenth floor later, a twinge of nostalgia hit Janine as she entered the reception area; over Ray’s pleadings and protests, Peter had claimed the Ghostbusters sign from the firehouse and proudly displayed it over the receptionist’s desk. Many was the time they’d come home after a difficult bust, weary of soul and body, and that sign had drawn them like a lighthouse beacon to their haven. And Janine would still be there, with a fresh pot of coffee or some hot pizza to gobble down before falling into bed.
Old times. Good times. Sometimes she still missed them.
The receptionist, a pretty, raven‑haired woman with elfin features smiled and waved a cheery welcome. “Morning, Ms. Melnitz! Have a good party last night?”
“It was wonderful, Sharyn.” Janine set her briefcase down and poured herself a cup of tea. “How is Michael doing?”
“Heavenly, as always.” She pointed to a small bouquet of flowers at the corner of her desk. “Not as grandiose as Dr. Spengler gets, but he’s learning.”
“Give him time, dear; he’ll get there.” Janine sipped at her tea. “What have we got today?”
“Let’s see ... there are four cartoon scripts on your desk for your review and approval, and Dr. Venkman wants you to talk to the Kenner people again. Apparently they’re still hung up on adding that Tully character to the toy line.”
Janine made a face; she still hadn’t forgiven Ackroyd and Ramis for that gawdawful second movie. That contract had been one of Peter’s few mistakes. “Anything else?”
“Umm ... yes. You have an lunch interview with Working Woman magazine at noon, over at Top of the Sixes.”
“Oh, joy.” Janine rolled her eyes, then glanced towards the closed door to Peter’s office. “He in yet?”
“Nope. Called in and said he’d be late.” Sharyn smiled a naughty, knowing smile.
“Doesn’t surprise me in the least. Okay, you know where to find me if you need me.” Grabbing her briefcase, she headed into her office and placed cup and case on her cluttered desk. While neatness and organization had its place, Janine wasn’t about to sacrifice a lifetime of habits for the sake of corporate peer pressure.
She snatched up the first script and leaned back in her chair, examining the title. “’Janine Melnitz, Ghostbuster’? I think I’m gonna like this one ... “
* * * * *
Egon sipped at the glass of ice water anxiously, feeling suddenly foolish for dragging Ray away from Columbia on the basis of a silly recurring dream. While it was fortunate that his colleague had instantly agreed to see him, he was really going to have to stop these “beyond the call of duty” favors.
He’d been fortunate to get a lunch reservation; Federico’s was both a quaint little Italian restaurant and the haven of some of the most powerful mover and shakers in New York. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Ghostbusters had removed a pesky Class Two vapor some years ago. Peter had found that their list of former clients opened doors magically; Egon personally hated to take advantage of people like that, but he had to reluctantly admit that there were times it came in handy.
Glancing towards the door, he spotted Ray Stantz standing by the reservation table and rose to his feet. His height and singular features were enough to catch Ray’s attention, and he hurried over to join Egon. “Sorry I’m late,” Ray said breathlessly, handing him a taped‑shut shoebox. “My class ran over, and it’s next to impossible to find a cab this time of day. But I did bring those tools and parts you wanted!”
“I’ts all right.” Spengler opened the box and rummaged through it with a critical eye. “These will be perfect. Thank you, Ray.”
“Great! Let’s take a look at the menu, okay? I’m starved!”
“Not surprising, Ray,” said a familiar voice from behind Egon. “That’s what a diet is supposed to accomplish, isn’t it?”
“Peter!” There was just enough false enthusiasm behind Ray’s voice to assure Egon that he’d been set up. “Gee, Egon, isn’t this a surprise? What are you doing here?”
“Just came in for lunch,” Venkman replied coolly, slipping into the one seat that wasn’t occupied by a person or box. “Dana’s rehearsal is running late, so I stopped by here for a bite. What’s new, guys?”
Egon sighed heavily. “Raymond ... really.”
Stantz cringed only a little. “Well‑gosh, Egon, you sounded so odd on the phone last night, I thought it might be a good idea to bring Peter in on this, too. I mean, after all, he was a psychologist.”
“I beg your pardon?” Peter replied, raising an eyebrow. “I still am a psychologist, thank you very much—even if I don’t practice these days.”
The waiter came by and took their orders; to his credit, Ray waited until they’d ordered before leaning forward. “Okay, Egon. What’s wrong?”
“Actually, I can think of several things,” Peter grinned. “Advice about women, Janine in particular, suggestions about a better place to live, commentary on your wardrobe, which Janine has had a phenomenally beneficial effect upon…” He grinned and spread his hands out inquiringly. “All the above, none of the above? Speak, oh mad genius.”
Egon glanced away. “It’s nothing, Peter. Ray, I’m sorry if I interrupted anything last night...”
“At three in the morning? I doubt it,” Ray chuckled, then grew somber. “Really, Egon. What’s wrong? I’ve known you for years; I can tell when something is really bothering you.”
“I told you, it’s nothing. Look, I’ve got to go, I’m sorry for inconveniencing both of you...” He started to rise, only to pause when a firm grip wrapped itself around his left arm.
Peter’s gaze met his. “It’s not ‘nothing’, Egon, I can tell at a glance. And it’s got to be serious because you haven’t said a word to Janine. Fire away, it’ll be confidential.”
Egon took a deep breath. “All right. I’ve ... been having nightmares.”
Peter leaned back and nodded. “Okay ... what are they about?”
“I find myself in my childhood bedroom. I’m physically an adult, but I’m wearing the pajamas I wore when I was six. The bed, the walls, everything looks exactly as it did when I was that age.” He sipped at his water. “And I hear this noise‑it’s like a soft wailing coming from the other side of the closet door. And there’s a faint light from the gap between the door and the floor. Just like those times when the Boogeyman terrorized me. Just like.”
Their salads arrived; Ray took a mouthful and chewed it thoughtfully, nodding at Egon to continue. Spengler toyed with the vinegar and oil container, then set it down again. “I find myself heading over to the door...I know that something terribly evil is on the other side, but I’m compelled to do it, I haven’t any choice. And I find myself reaching out to the door knob....”
“…and then you wake up,” Ray finished for him.
“And then I wake up,” Egon agreed miserably. He made a half‑hearted stab at a piece of lettuce, then set his fork down. “I have this dream every three or four nights. Each time I wake up just a bit closer to opening that door ... and now that I think about it, every time I have it, the wailing and the light are diminished.” He pondered that piece of evidence in his mind, turning it this way and that to see what secrets it could reveal, then gave up with a soft cry of despair. “Peter, Ray ... am I going mad?”
The waiter came forward with their lunches at that moment; Peter lifted a fork and played with his food before answering. “Do you think you’re going mad?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Good sign that you’re not, then. Crazy people are always the last to know. To them, it’s the rest of the world that’s gone bonkers.”
“Then why am I having this dream?” Egon all but cried out.
Ray had been attacking his plate of spaghetti with typical gusto, but paused long enough to glance up and take a deep breath. “Take any PKE readings in your room?”
“Naturally. No traces.”
“Hmmm.” He pierced a meatball and neatly skewered it in half. “Just on what you’ve told me, it certainly sounds an awful lot like your experiences with the Boogeyman. But surely he’d register…” He took a sip of water and pondered the matter further. “We could run a few more tests this evening, I guess, but if you didn’t find anything, I don’t know what else I could come up with.”
Peter leaned forward. “Egon, have you had a physical lately?”
“Just covering the bases. Have you had a physical lately?”
“Then I’d suggest you make an appointment with Rosenthal as soon as possible. If nothing turns up there…well, I assume you’ve made a routine sweep for PKE, so forget that. Otherwise…” He shrugged helplessly. “What can I say, Egon? It’s a dream. Nothing more, nothing less. People have them all the time. Sometimes it means something, sometimes it doesn’t. Personally, I’d venture a guess that it’s caused by the radical changes in your life coupled with overwork. Take a few days off. Take Janine up to the Cape for the weekend. Get away from New York. That’s what I’d suggest.”
“You really think it’s nothing?” Egon asked hopefully.
“Since it can’t be paranormal in nature…and that’s the only thing that makes any sense right now…yeah, I’d say it’s nothing but a reaction to stress.” He clapped Egon on the arm as they stood up and headed for the door. “But get that physical—I’ll have Sharyn make the appointment for you and relay the time and date to you—and if you’re still worried about it, come on over and talk to me some more. Confession is good for the soul, they say.”
“Uhh, speaking of confessions,” Ray smiled weakly as he paid his bill, “you guys won’t tell Sheila that I kinda blew my diet, will you?”
Peter grinned evilly. “Raymond…trust me!”
* * * * *
Peter entered the lobby to his company and glared at his receptionist. “Hey, Sobel! Do I pay you to look cute, do your nails and read magazines?”
The receptionist smiled sweetly. “At the lousy pay you give me, it’s all I’m going to do. Work costs you extra, Dr V.”
“Aw, jeez, I should never have let Janine do the hiring. Has Dad called in from California yet?”
“Yes, he did. He was having a business lunch with some Columbia executives. He promised to call you the minute he got the deal signed.”
“Knowing Dad, we’ll probably wind up owning Columbia to boot. Where’s Janine?”
“Still at lunch.”
“Okay. Must be a long interview, maybe for a cover story. That’s good.” He headed for his office, then turned and looked at Sharyn’s desk. “Nice bouquet of roses, there. Michael finally wising up?”
“Actually, they’re not for me—they’re from Dr. Spengler for Ms. Melnitz.”
Peter’s eyebrow rose. “Not bad, Egon, you’re learning. Okay, Sobel, do something for me for a change. Make an appointment with Dr. Rosenthal for Egon—sometime soon. Relay the information to him, and emphasize that if he doesn’t go, I’m telling Janine.”
“Will do, Dr. V.”
He shook his head and winced. “Second coming of Janine Melnitz, I swear. Get some work done, Sobel—we’re paying for this stuff, remember?”
Sharyn cracked her gum noisily and waited until Peter had gone into his office before reaching for the phone.
* * * * *
Peter Venkman closed the door to his office once more, then walked over to his genuine Walkenwood desk and sat down in the perfectly‑padded chair. Leaning back, he propped his feet up on the desktop and stared out the window at New York City, all bright and promising in the afternoon sunlight.
Growing up, Peter had been constantly on the move, a regrettable consequence of his father’s vocation. The result of it was that the youngster had learned to make friends quickly, through words and actions. But he’d also learned to never get too close to anyone, because the instant you did, you’d be uprooted to some new town, some new state and some new dream that your crazy father was chasing.
College had been somewhat better; Peter’s charismatic ways made him an immediate hit, especially with the ladies, whose attentions he was more than willing to court. He’d been actively pursued by the fraternal organizations, who recognized his con‑artist abilities for the lucrative possibilities they promised. He lived it up as much as his studies allowed, but old habits died hard and for two years he kept himself from being tied down to any one woman or any one friend.
Ray Stantz—and later on Egon Spengler—changed all that. Ray’s natural ebullience and innocence rang a long‑buried chord inside his heart, and he quickly warmed to the quirky occultist. And Egon ... Peter had been inclined to write the taciturn, scholarly Spengler off, but there was something there that made Peter feel as though he had more in common with him than with Ray. And besides, Ray liked Egon, so he had to be nice. Within reason, of course.
From that day on, their lives had been closely entwined. They lived together, worked together, partied together (though the words “party” and “Egon” were mutually exclusive for a long, long time), and finally went into business together. Add Winston and Janine into the mix, and to his surprise Peter found himself with a family of sorts.
He didn’t like seeing Egon so troubled. Egon was a reminder of what he could have been, a loner without any friends or interests other than his field of specialty.
That little witch Sharon Muelhausen hadn’t helped things by luring the naive science major into her clutches, using him to help her pass her courses and get out of academic probation, then dumping him like yesterday’s news. For two weeks Peter hadn’t let Egon out of his sight, until he was sure that Egon wouldn’t try anything stupid.
Then again, knowing Egon, any suicide attempt would also have served as a physics experiment, so it would have bound to be interesting.
“Sometimes it means something, sometimes it doesn’t.” But the more Peter thought about it, the uneasier he became. Perhaps he ought to recommend a full‑time psychiatrist to Egon, someone who could more adequately determine what was troubling him and give assistance. Peter hadn’t really practiced in years, after all, and keeping this business going took a lot of time and effort.
But Egon trusted him. He knew Peter, knew that no matter what he said or did, that Peter would understand. How could he let Egon down? Peter sighed and decided that if Egon asked him for his help, he’d once again forsake rational thought and do everything in his power to aid his friend. Sometimes, just sometimes, friendship had to come before business.
* * * * *
Sheila Brown poked her head through the door to Ray’s office; he was on the phone, talking to Winston by the sound of it. “Yeah, I’m a little concerned, too, but Pete told him to take a few days off and relax ... yeah, we’re talking about Egon ... I know, I know Winston...okay, I’ve got to get to a class anyway. Keep in touch.” He hung up the phone and looked up. “Oh. Hi, Sheila.”
She walked over to the edge of his desk and sat down on it. “How’s Egon?”
“I don’t know,” he said glumly, shaking his head.
“Maybe some time away from New York, just him and Janine, would be best.”
She rested a hand on his shoulder. “Ray, he’ll be okay.”
“I know, Sheila, I know. It’s just ... Egon’s my friend. I’ve known him for years, worked alongside of him almost every day since we were in college! And here he is, hurting and troubled, and I can’t do anything to help him.”
A gentle smile crossed Sheila’s lips. To Ray’s surprise, she bent down and kissed his cheek. “What’s that for?”
“For being a good friend to Egon, Ray. Sometimes, that’s the only thing you can be ... and sometimes, that’s enough.”
|Chapter One||Chapter Two||Chapter Three||Chapter Four||Chapter Five||Chapter Six||Chapter Seven||Chapter Eight||Chapter Nine||Chapter Ten|