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.
"Come on, come on..." Janine Melnitz chewed nervously on her left thumbnail as she gripped the phone even more tightly. Tension and anticipation was plainly written all over her face as she waited; when a busy signal buzzed in her ear, she quickly cut the connection and hit the speed dialer with a jab of her index finger. Then the cycle of waiting began anew, much as it had all morning.
On this turn of the karmic wheel, however, the cycle was broken. "Hello?" Janine said quickly into the receiver. "I am? I DID? WOW! Who am I? Uhh, my name's Janine Melnitz, and I work at Ghostbusters...yeah, I figured you'd know. Okay, thanks!" She slammed the phone back into place, and rising to her feet, succumbed to an attack of happy feet.
Peter was coming down the stairs at that moment, and watched the redhead's display with interest. "What's going on?" he asked. "Victoria's Secret having a half-off sale?"
"Better than that, Dr. V!" she replied with exultant tones. "I just won two tickets to the Nameless Dread concert!" Another attack of happy feet ensued, this time under the watchful eyes of the rest of the Ghostbusters.
"Not bad," Winston nodded with a smile. "If I'd gotten tickets to that concert, I'd probably be dancing too."
"You...won...tickets to the Nameless Dread concert," Peter echoed; his face was a mixture of amazement and pure envy. "That concert's been sold out for months, and you...got..tickets..."
"I didn't know you were a 'Dreadhead'," Winston said.
"Oh, sure," Peter and Janine said in unison, then turned to stare at each other. "You too?" they asked.
"Never thought I'd see the day where Pete and Janine agreed on anything," Ray grinned.
"Hey, the Dread is special," Peter informed him. "I've got all their albums, but I've never managed to get to see them live." He turned to Janine. "Okay. How much do you want for them?"
"No way," the redhead retorted. "I won 'em, I'm using 'em."
"Come on," Peter cajoled. "Everything has a price."
"Not this time," she shook her head. Smiling at her boss's consternation, Janine walked over to where Egon was standing. The blond scientist was performing his morning "calibrate the PKE meter" ritual, and for all intents and purposes had been oblivious to the morning banter. Janine cleared her throat to get his attention, and when she was sure she had it, smiled up at him and said, "Egon, would you like to go with me to the Dread concert next week?"
"Say no, say no," Peter prayed under his breath.
"The who?" Egon asked.
"No, the Nameless Dread. The rock band?"
Egon made a face. "Actually, I despise rock music. Its main
purposes seem to be the promotion of promiscuity and deafness."
"Works for me," Peter nodded.
"Egon," Janine pleaded. "These tickets were very hard to get hold of, and if you won't go with me..." She tried to think of some dire consequence, but only one came to mind, "...I'll have to go with Dr. Venkman, instead."
"And what's wrong with that?" Peter demanded, affronted. "I happen to be a very good date, I'll have you know."
"You ought to," Ray replied with a smirk. "You go out on so many of them."
"Shut up, Ray," Peter grumbled, returning his attention to the conversation between Janine and Egon.
"Well, I don't know..." the scientist said, wavering. "Admittedly, it's been rather slow around here lately, and most of my spore and mold experiments don't require any great amount of watching..."
Janine summoned up every ounce of "cute redhead" she possessed and aimed it all at him. "Pleeeeze, Egon?" she said, eyes big and wide.
"Well...I suppose it might make for an interesting change of pace. All right."
Janine smiled. '"Thanks, Egon. It's next Tuesday, okay?" She walked back to her desk with cool, measured paces and watched the Ghostbusters pile into ECTO-1 for the morning calls. Only when she was sure they were gone did she rise to her feet and pump a fist into the air.
"YES! YES! YES! THE REDHEAD IS ON A ROLLLL!"
* * * * *
Janine's euphoric mood lasted all of two days; the Ghostbusters rolled into their headquarters that afternoon to find her sobbing at her desk. "Uh-oh," Peter muttered under his breath as he got out of the car. "I could have sworn there was enough to cover her paycheck..."
"Wrong mood," Winston said. "If it were that, she'd have an axe in her hands."
"And that nasty smile of hers," Ray added helpfully. While the others chatted, it was Egon who went to her desk.
"Ohh, it's terrible!" she cried. The other three men had by now joined their partner at the desk, concern written on their faces--even Peter. "It's just awful!" she continued. "I can't believe it!"
"What's terrible?" Ray asked. "Is it someone in your family? Did a relative get hurt or sick?"
"Look, do you need some time off or an advance?" Peter asked. Everyone, Janine included, looked up in shock; Peter shrugged and smiled weakly. "So sue me. If Janine needs to get somewhere..."
"No, no," she sniffed, reaching for the Kleenex that Egon had thoughtfully pulled for her. "It's just...I just heard on the radio that there was a bad accident involving the Nameless Dread!"
"The band?" Winston cried indignantly. "You're crying your eyes out over some band?"
"They're not just any band, they're the greatest!" Janine declared. "It happened late last night--they think the driver fell asleep behind the wheel, and the bus went off the road and flipped a few times before catching fire. It took them hours to get the blaze under control!"
"I'll bet," Peter grinned. "There was probably one humongous cloud of reefer hanging over it."
"That's not funny," Janine retorted, but a smile finally emerged from her lips. "So anyway, the entire band was killed, and they're going to hold the concert next week as a sort of memorial to the guys." She looked up at Egon. "I know you weren't crazy about going in the first place, but I...I'd really like it if you went with me anyway."
"Of course," he nodded gravely. "It's the least I can do."
The gang split up at that point; Janine resumed her work on the computer, Egon headed upstairs to his lab, Winston and Ray took the traps downstairs for emptying and cleaning. And Peter went upstairs to the second floor, where he rummaged through his considerable album collection until he'd found one particular LP. For the longest time he simply stood there staring at it, lost in thought...or perhaps it was nostalgia.
The cover was done in psychedelic yellows and reds, and had the title "NAMELESS DREAD--AROUND THE CORNER". Five men in dingy, ragged clothing were pictured in the foreground, slouched in casual poses. Though they weren't identified, Peter knew their names and faces as well as he knew his own. There was Tony DeFreece, the drummer. Standing on either side of him were J.T. Groteboer (bass) and Pat Coates (keyboards). And rounding out the corners were the inimitable Tom "Wizard" Wiard and "Cherry" Jerry Garzon, lead guitarists and vocalists. Through all these years, the group had remained intact, playing their music their way anywhere and any time they could.
Peter studied the cover for a few moments more, then slipped the disk out of the container and set it on the stereo, then slipped on a pair of headphones, sat back in a comfortable chair and closed his eyes as the music began to blare.
* * * * *
As the fates would have it, though, Janine's plans for a combination date/memorial service hit a major snag the night of the concert. Egon had woken up that morning with a terrible head cold, and was feeling so awful that he didn't even show any inclination to work in his lab. While the other Ghostbusters went out on their calls, Janine spent the day running up and down the stairs, performing her normal duties while periodically checking on the scientist and plying him with chicken soup.
ECTO-1 returned around 4:30 that afternoon, carrying three tired Ghostbusters. "Next time we find a sub when someone's out," Winston declared as he handed Janine the day's receipts. "I feel like I've been jogging on every street in the city."
"I don't think Kelly Services could find anyone suicidal enough,"
Peter replied as he walked past with an armload of traps. "By the way, Janine--you still planning on going to the concert tribute tonight?"
Janine had been carefully considering that very item all day, and with reluctance she cleared her throat. "Ahhh...I was wondering if you...wanted to go...with me, Dr. Venkman."
He turned and looked at her, surprised. "You serious?"
"Well...yeah." She was clearly embarrassed about the idea, and a bit uneasy, too. "I mean, it's not like it's a date or anything..." Her tone of voice made that perfectly clear. "...and I know you really liked their music, too, so I thought you'd like to go. That is, if you're not too tired."
Peter thought about it for a minute, then nodded. "Sure, why not?" he said. "Tell you what, though. In exchange for the ticket, I'll treat you to dinner."
"This isn't a date," Janine quickly reminded him.
"No, it's not," he agreed with a grin. "Call it a quid pro quo, if you want."
As he headed downstairs with the traps, Janine repressed a shudder. "Brrr," she said to herself. "Ever since that movie, I've hated hearing that expression..."
* * * * *
While it was a sad occasion, most of the people entering the auditorium looked as though they were attending one of the Dread's festive concerts. Men and women of varying ages shuffled past security wearing scruffy denim pants, ancient, ragged T-shirts from past tours, headbands and disintegrating sneakers bought in days when "Nike" was known as the goddess of victory. "Now this is the kind of send-off I'd like to have," Peter remarked as he craned his neck for a look around.
"Don't worry, Dr. V--I'm sure we'll all be celebrating." Janine sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose in disgust. "Geez--they could have waited until the start of the ceremony, for crying out loud!"
"Think of it as a tribute to days gone by." They found their seats and sat down; Janine was dressed in jeans and an oversized Dread T-shirt; Peter was similarly garbed, but his T-shirt was the one he'd bought at his first concert a long time ago. "So when's this thing supposed to start?"
"Program says at 8:00, but they'll probably wait a half-hour or so. After all, the band never did manage to start on-time." Janine looked around at the slowly-filling arena. "Man, it still gives me the chills to see how many Dreadheads there are, and this is just New York!"
"Imagine what it's like in Frisco." Peter started looking around for a peanut vendor, but his search abruptly stopped when the P.A. system boomed:
"Will Dr. Peter Venkman please report to Madison Square Garden Security? Will Dr. Peter Venkman please report to Madison Square Garden Security..."
Peter looked over at Janine. "Trouble."
"Probably." She rose to her feet. "Let's go."
"Janine, you don't have to come with me..."
She turned around and stared at Peter. "Look, that call means one of two things--either the guys are in trouble on a bust, or Egon's done something at home. I want to know what's going on. Now let's go." She descended the stairs at a rapid pace, her sneakers slapping against the concrete steps. As Peter went to follow, one of his neighbors grinned at him.
"Hey dude, you one of those Ghostbuster guys?"
Peter nodded. "Yeah."
"Cool," the stranger nodded, his eyes slightly glazed over. "Hey man, you guys didn't, like, bust the Dread, did you?"
"No," the psychologist shook his head. "And even if I had the chance, I wouldn't. Not the Dread."
* * * * *
"My name's Jackson," the security guard introduced herself. She was a tall, slender blonde with no-nonsense blue eyes and a big truncheon attached to her belt; Peter made careful mental notes to remember that last detail in future flirtation attempts. "Can I see some ID, please?"
"Sure." Peter handed her his drivers license. "I'd offer you some ectoplasm, but I don't tend to carry samples. That's the other guys' department. The lady," he added as Jackson took a look at Janine, "is with me. She's with the company."
"Good. We can use all the help we can get from you on this one." She handed Peter his license back and nodded to her right. "Please come with me." As they walked down a long, brightly lit corridor, the security officer continued to talk. "We called your headquarters first, and they mentioned that you would probably be here tonight. They'd like for you to make an assessment, then call them back and let them know if they need to come out as well."
"Uh-oh," Janine said under her breath; Peter nodded. That's all they
needed, a ghost in Madison Square on a busy night like this. The
possibilities for disaster were endless....but first things first.
Peter cleared his throat. "What seems to be the problem, Ms. Jackson?"
"See for yourself." They stopped directly in front of a door with a sign reading "GREEN ROOM"; Jackson threw the door open with a flourish and motioned for Peter and Janine to go inside. As they obeyed, they looked around and froze in sudden shock at what was waiting for them.
"Hey dudes," said "Cherry" Jerry Garzon. "What's happening?"
* * * * *
Peter finally found his voice. "That depends," he said carefully. "What are you doing here?"
"Got a gig, man," replied Tom Wiard. "But our roadies ain't got us set up yet. In fact, they ain't even here so far as we know. This one may set a record for delay time," he added with a grin.
"You the Garden director?" Garzon asked. "We showed up about fifteen minutes ago--the guards turned white as ghosts and brought us in here, then shut the door. We ain't seen nobody except you since then."
"Lovely," Peter murmured under his breath. "Just lovely."
"Dr. V?" Janine asked softly. "What's going on?"
"Looks like the Dread showed up for one last gig--their wake."
"No kidding." Peter took a deep breath and smiled at Garzon, Wiard and the others. "Guys, we gotta have a little talk..."
* * * * *
All things considered, the Dread took the news pretty well. "Far out," Garzon commented, studying a newspaper article about the accident that someone had brought to the concert and agreed to loan out. "Except, I hated that publicity shot. Makes me look too damn old."
"That's because you are too damn old," J.T. Groteboer pointed out with a grin.
"Shut up, man." Garzon turned to Peter and Janine. "Okay, Mr. Ghostbuster, assuming you're right--and after watching Wizard go through the wall and back, I'm inclined to believe you--what the hell we doing here, and what do we do now?"
"Well," Peter said, "as far as I can tell, you guys really wanted to play New York. Most of the goopers we nail have an unfinished purpose that keeps 'em here. Maybe that's it."
"Ain't just NYC," Coates shook his head. "We love the road, man. Greatest place to be."
"Be that as it may, we've got two choices," Peter pointed out. "Either you guys resolve this situation, or Madison management may insist that we 'bust' you."
Garzon looked hurt. "Hey, you wouldn't do that, would you? We ain't doin' anybody any harm. We just came to play. Ain't our fault we're here."
"Hey, look, if it were up to me, I'd let you get right on stage and do that--I'm a big fan," Peter protested. "But it's not up to me. And if you think I want thirty thousand Dreadheads to find out that I was responsible for busting you, you got another think coming!"
"Isn't there something we can do?" Janine asked plaintively. "I mean--what if all they need is one more concert? Surely that wouldn't hurt, would it?"
Peter thought about it, weighing the reality of the situation against what his heart desperately wanted him to do. "Let me talk to the managers," he finally said. "Maybe we can get them to give the Dread one last gig, and let the fans give 'em a send-off into rock-n-roll Heaven."
"Can't ask for more than your best shot," Wiard said. "But what do we do about instruments?"
"Shoot," Garzon snorted. "We don't need no stinkin' instruments."
He looked over at Groteboer and DeFreece. "Well? You guys up for
"I dunno, man," DeFreece said uneasily. "I ain't gone out on stage completely straight in years...."
"Years?" Wiard grinned.
"Don't need nothin' now," Garzon said firmly. "Just our voices...and our fans. Just like always. Let's do it."
* * * * *
About ten minutes later, the lights inside the Garden dimmed, shrouding the entire arena in shadows. The crowd fell silent in anticipation; then, like fireflies on a summer night, first one, then another, then another, then a shower of lighters and matches flicked into life, as the Dreadheads gave their beloved band one last request for an encore.
From the side of the stage, Janine and Peter watched with anticipation.
And suddenly a voice cut through the stillness:
"Better stop and take a look..."
And then three voices added: "It's coming..."
The first voice resumed: "Won't find it in your picture book..."
"Nasty voices in your head..."
"Fill your heart with nameless dread..."
"Creeping from the shadow's edge..."
"Man it's there...AROUND THE BEND!"
The lights began to slowly rise, allowing the audience to see that what they were hearing wasn't from an old live album. A collective hush fell over the crowd as the Dread continued to sing a cappella. Peter and Janine watched from off-stage, their fingers crossed and breaths held.
The roar started from the ground level, quickly rising from row to row until every inch of the Garden was enveloped in its mighty swell....and then it descended like a tidal wave upon the Dread, who drank it in like life-giving water. As the cheering continued unabated, the band finally gave up on continuing with the song, deciding instead to simply stand there and drown in the adulation. And with every passing second, their ghostly forms grew more solid and life-like, and as if by magic, musical instruments began to form in their hands. Guitars, keyboards, drums...within ten minutes the transformation was complete.
Silence fell over the area; Garzon looked around, peering over his rose-colored glasses. "What's happenin', guys?" he asked the crowd, which responded instantly with another ovation. "Hey, we surely do appreciate this," he continued. "Looks like you just can't keep a Dreadhead down, huh?
"Now," he asked the band with a grin. "Where were we?" And the Nameless Dread picked up with "Around the Bend" where they'd left off, accompanied by the never-ending cheers from the crowd.
* * * * * * * *
"So what happened afterwards?" Ray asked later, back at the firehouse.
"Well, we kinda expected them to go 'poit'," Janine replied, sipping at a cup
of tea. "But wouldn't you know, they went back for three encores without
missing a beat. And when we left, they were talking about heading towards
the next stop on their original tour--Philly, I think."
"Aren't people going to be a little...'spooked'...going to see a ghost band?" Winston asked with a grin.
"You don't know Dreadheads," Peter shook his head. "If they're able to sustain themselves, I'd bet they could go on indefinitely...which is just the way they'd like it. They always were a good road band, " he mused as he sipped at his coffee.
"Makes sense," Ray nodded. "Their fans' belief in them will probably keep them at a fairly steady level of manifestation. We ought to keep an eye on them, though. This might make a good entry for Tobin's, you know?"
"Probably a good idea, " Peter agreed with a grin at Janine. "We volunteer. But one thing's for sure...."
"What's that?" asked Winston.
"What a long, strange trip it's going to be!"