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.
Peter Venkman leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, the better to avoid looking at the pile of unpaid bills on his desk. Ghostbusters was stuck in the middle of its March-to-May ‘ghost slump’, and the end was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t had so much as a crank phone call in three days, and never had the term ‘petty cash’ been so appropriate.
Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore were fiddling with ECTO-2 on the roof of the firehall. Egon Spengler was-as usual-upstairs in his lab with Slimer, no doubt performing a number of bizarre experiments on the Spud in his never-ending quest for paranormal knowledge. And Janine…
Peter frowned and listened. The computer keyboard was silent. Paper lay still and unshuffled. The floor failed to reverberate with the crisp clacking of high heels.
Where the blazes was Janine Melnitz?
A soft rustle of movement caught Peter’s attention, followed by a familiar nasal chuckle. "Okay, sucker. It’s payback time," he heard the redhead receptionist mutter. Seconds later, the unmistakable whine of a proton pack in activation mode reached his ears.
Peter thought quickly. He was fairly certain that their bank account had sufficient funds to cover her last paycheck…
"Come out, come out, wherever you are, you rotten little piece of vermin," Janine said, her voice coming ever so closer to Peter’s office.
Venkman wondered if one of the others had "borrowed" some funds, intending to replenish the account later…
"Ah-HA!" A particle thrower screeched into life.
"EE-YIKES!" Peter threw himself under his desk.
Seconds later, Janine’s lower body came into view, followed momentarily by her face. "You okay, Dr. Venkman?" she asked.
"I swear to God, Janine, we’ll make good on it, I promise!" he gibbered.
"Huh?" Her expression twisted in confusion, then flowed neatly into a proud, smug smile. "Hey, I just discovered a new use for these things! They make great rat zappers—maybe you guys could moonlight as exterminators till business picks up again."
Peter hesitantly peered out from his hidey-hole to spot a smoldering, charbroiled…thing lying nearby. He swallowed hard.
"Try and scare Janine Melnitz, willya?" she continued breezily as she scooped up the remains with a dustpan and headed to the dumpster out back. "I’ve stood up to the Bogeyman and Samhein; you don’t even rate a scream next to them." Her voice faded.
Peter crawled out from under his desk. "I hate days like this," he said with a sigh.
"Excuse me? Is this where I might find the Ghostbusters?" Peter turned to find a tall, impeccably dressed gentleman standing at the gate to his office. By his look, the man reeked of money.
"It certainly is," Venkman nodded furiously. "I’m Doctor Peter Venkman. What can we do for you?"
"Well," the stranger said with a smile as he offered a business card, "my name is Allen Decker, and I have a business proposition of sort for you…"
* * * * *
"So let me get this straight, Mister Decker," Winston said after the hastily assembled team had listened to the visitor’s proposal. "You bought this old brewery family’s mansion that’s supposed to be haunted, renovated it into a restaurant, and now you want us to come to St. Louis for the opening?"
"That’s correct, Mister Zeddemore," Decker replied. "Your presence would make an excellent publicity tag."
"All expenses paid?" asked Peter for the fifth time. "Air fare, lodging, food, per diem allowance?"
"And no actual ghostbusting. We simply show up in our working clothes, put on a small demonstration, shake hands and sign autographs."
Peter glanced at Ray, who looked uncertain but inclined to go with the offer; next toward Winston, who shrugged in ambivalent agreement; then at Egon. From the distracted look on Spengler’s face, it was questionable as to whether he’d heard a single word.
"Well, Allen," Peter began smoothly, "I have to admit that it’s an appealing proposition. But there is the matter of reimbursement for any revenue lost due to our being in St. Louis. We are quite busy this time of year."
Janine opened her mouth to protest, but a warning glance from Venkman shut her up.
Decker smiled. "What would a suitable remuneration be?"
Peter tallied up the bills, added fifteen percent, and padded the grand total before replying.
"Done," said Decker without blinking.
"This’ll be great!" Ray said exuberantly. "And just think—we could take Slimer along as an added treat for the kids!"
Egon suddenly blanched. "Uh, perhaps that wouldn’t be a good idea, Raymond," he said, looking a bit uncomfortable.
"Why not?" Janine asked. "He loves kids, and if we keep a supply of food on hand, he’ll behave. I think it’s a great idea."
Peter closed his eyes. "Okay. Out with it, Egon."
The tall scientist shifted from foot to foot. "Well…there was a small accident earlier today."
Ray paled. "Egon…you didn’t…not Slimer."
"I’m fairly certain he’ll reintegrate in a week or two," Egon said hurriedly. "I had a minor power surge on the ionization inhibitor, and his molecules lost their cohesion…a bit."
"A bit?" echoed Ray uncertainly.
"Well, actually it was complete dissolution."
"WHAT?" screamed Winston, Ray and Janine in unison.
"Egon, you’re saying you disintegrated the spud?" Peter stared incredulously at his partner.
"Well…yes, I suppose an untrained observer could classify it thusly."
Venkman leaned forward and shook Decker’s hand. "I knew today was going to go my way. You’ve got a deal."
"Excellent," answered Decker. "I’ll make your travel and lodging arrangements and notify you when everything is ready. Thank you and good day, gentlemen." He nodded politely and exited.
Janine clapped her hands together. "This is going to be great. St. Louis is lovely this time of year. Let’s see, I’ll need a few new outfits, so you’ll have to give me a chunk of my back salary, Doctor Venkman."
"Uh, Janine," Peter inquired, "who said you’re going?"
Janine leaned forward, eyes glittering. "Who’s going to tell me I’m not?" Then she headed toward her work wardrobe closet. "Let’s see, should I take the blue coveralls with pink trim, or the white ones with lavender?"
* * * * *
The Ghostbusters were given first-class airfare for this trip; Ray in particular found this a blessing, as it made his periodic trips to the men’s room a bit more convenient. Janine sat snuggled up to Egon (she claimed the cabin was too chilly), her nose buried in a lurid murder novel, while he studied a large pile of papers. Peter was unsuccessfully chatting up the flight attendants, and Winston decided to spend the time reading some of the background literature that Decker had provided about the Lemp family.
"Man, is this something," he said to Peter, who had just gotten yet another polite brush-off.
"Tell me about it," Venkman sighed. "I thought I was irresistible."
"No, no—this family!" Zeddemore continued. "According to this, the Lemp family was one of the more influential families in the brewing industry, even bigger than the Busches. And more than their share of scandal, too."
"Yeah?" Peter slumped in his seat and toyed with an end of the safety belt. "So why do people drink Budweiser instead of Lemp beer today?"
"Prohibition," Ray replied as he staggered to his seat, returning from the restroom. "The Lemps weren’t able to adjust like the Busch family did, so they simply shut down…and that was that."
"Says, too, that four of them committed suicide," Winston added. "Three of ‘em did it in this mansion that Decker’s converted into a restaurant. A lot of people claim it’s haunted."
"Not surprising, actually," commented Egon from behind. "Violent deaths often trigger paranormal manifestations; in fact, it’s one of the most common origins for ghosts."
"What’s that you’re reading, Egon?" Ray inquired, eyeing Spengler’s sheaf of papers.
"I’m studying a report that two colleagues of ours made on the Lemp Mansion. Do you remember meeting Gordon Hoener and Phil Goodwilling at that convention we attended last year?"
"Yeah. They had some great stories about ghost hunting in the Midwest."
"So, they poked around the mansion, huh?" Winston said.
Egon nodded. "Their team performed several experiments to see if any ghosts were truly present. While I’m normally skeptical of the primitive tests they used, the evidence would indicate that some paranormal activity did take place." He glanced up from his papers and absently pushed his glasses back into place. "I’ll want to take a few readings with the P.K.E. meter…"
"Egon," Peter broke in, shaking his head. "We are here for publicity purposes only, remember? No ghostbusting. Relax for a change, willya?"
Egon harrumphed quietly and returned to his reading. At that moment, a perky flight attendant came up and smiled brightly. "I’m sorry, but I’ve just been informed that we’re coming up on a bit of turbulence. I’ll have to ask you to return to your seats."
"Good idea," said Ray weakly, and staggered back toward the restrooms.
* * * * *
It was a typical St. Louis spring morning that greeted the Ghostbusters: sunny, cool and humid. They’d dressed at the hotel and loaded up a rental van with their proton packs, then piled in and drove to the southern part of the city, where the Lemp Mansion sat in all its faded glory.
A large crowd of onlookers had already gathered in the street, most of whom were there to see the legendary Ghostbusters. Peter had wasted no time in sending his comrades out among the crowds to sign autographs and mingle—but first he made sure that every proton pack was in "safety lock" position. He, Ray and Winston had little trouble in handling the crowds, but Egon was clearly distracted, shooting wistful glances first at his P.K.E. meter, then at the stately mansion behind them.
Several photographers were circled around Janine, whose uniform was snug in all the best places and just unzipped enough to make men dream of huge slices of cheesecake. "April O’Neal, eat your heart out," she murmured with a smile as she posed.
"Excellent, excellent!" cried Decker as he hurriedly looked the Ghostbusters over, wringing his hands in anticipation. "Everything is going splendidly! This opening will make area history!"
"Mr. Decker," began Egon, "I’d like to go inside and…"
"Of course, of course!" the owner beamed. "Let me show you the restaurant! Have you eaten? Are you thirsty? Come on!" Decker took Egon’s arm and guided him to the front door, the other Ghostbusters following.
"Actually, Mr. Decker," Egon tried again. "I would very much like to take a…"
"The facilities are just down that way," said Decker as he pointed down a narrow hallway.
"Egon, ix-nay on the eadings-ray," Peter muttered in his associate’s ear.
"Huh?" asked Stantz from nearby.
"But…but…" Egon started, but his voice fell quiet when they entered the venerable estate. It was beyond any of their wildest dreams—or nightmares. The floor was a black-and-white checkerboard. Cold metallic tables and chairs filled the room. Ferns and other assorted flora hung suspended from the ceiling. Neon lights blazed hot pinks and greens from the walls, which had been painted stark purple.
"I think I’m going to be sick," Janine whispered.
"I think I’ll join you," Peter agreed.
"Uhhh…Mister Decker?" Winston was clearly struggling to come up with a phrase that would express his feelings without insulting their client. "I have to admit this is pretty…unique, but wouldn’t it have been better to decorate the place in the original style?"
"You must be joking," Decker huffed. "That pile of antiquarian junk? No, Mister Zeddemore, this is the perfect amalgamation of past, present and future! My restaurant will be the in-place to dine and be seen! This is the trend of the 90’s!" He clapped his hands sharply for emphasis, then smiled again. "Well, there is a large crowd out there, and we mustn’t disappoint them, hmmm? So why don’t you go and entertain them? We will hold the grand opening in approximately forty-five minutes. The mayor himself will be here to cut the ribbon!"
"Ten bucks says he doesn’t spend more than five minutes here," Janine mumbled to Winston, who shook his head to decline the wager. Mama Zeddemore taught her children to never bet against sure things.
"Okay, guys, let’s get out there and mingle like the man says," Peter announced loudly. "That includes you, too, Egon." He looked around in confusion. They were one man short. "Egon? Where’s Egon?"
"He was here just a second ago," Ray commented as he, too, scanned the area.
* * * * *
Spengler had taken advantage of the change in locale to slip off into a deserted office. He stared incredulously at the readings from his P.K.E. meter; the arms of the antennae were fully splayed, and the indicator lights on the tips of each extension blinked with ever-increasing rapidity.
"I was afraid of this," he muttered quietly to himself.
Circling around slowly, Egon determined where the readings seemed stronger and hurried out of the office. The trail led him to a closed door, which when opened revealed a descending staircase and a dank, mildew-like odor. He sniffed the air and recognized the telltale scent of a particular fungus that he’d been searching for. He made a mental note to return later with a sample container and track it down.
Carefully, he made his way downstairs, glancing behind warily with every creak of the steps, and found himself in the mansion’s basement. Extending one hand out so that it touched the wall (he wished he’d thought to bring a flashlight, in retrospect), Egon managed to pick a path through the cluttered contents of the cellar until he reached yet another door in the far corner. A quick twist of the knob and the door squeaked open in noisy protest. As it swung wide, the readings jumped again.
A cold, dank breeze caressed his face. The darkness was thick and impenetrable, no matter how hard he strained his vision. But something was down there—had to be—to generate such strong readings. Perhaps he could convince the others to investigate later.
Egon hurriedly closed the door and rushed up the steps to the main floor. So intent was he on locating his comrades that he literally collided with Peter and Winston.
"Egon, I told you we’re not here to bust ghosts," Venkman growled, grabbing his partner’s arm and pulling him toward the front door. "Geez, I oughta just lock you in a room with Janine and forget about you for the rest of the trip."
"Peter, I’ve just made a discovery that we need to—" Egon stopped in mid-sentence and blinked owlishly. "What purpose would that action serve?" he asked, his voice equal measures of confusion and frustration.
"You’d find out real quick," Zeddemore chuckled, winking at Venkman as they pulled their errant partner out of the house. Ray and Janine were standing in the front yard, waving to throng and watching a long black limousine pull up. A shortish scarecrow of a man with thinning black hair and beady eyes popped out of the back, followed by a scurrying entourage.
"Mr. Mayor, no doubt," Janine muttered to Ray. "Whatta wimp."
Decker hurried forward to greet the dignitary, meeting him halfway up the walk and escorting him to where a long yellow ribbon had just been stretched across the main entrance.
Bored, Peter glanced around to see if any lovely, single ladies were trying to throw themselves at his feet. Unfortunately, his wandering gaze fell upon a preoccupied Egon Spengler, who was once again consulting his P.K.E. meter.
"Egon-n-n…" Venkman’s voice started to rise in warning.
Ray turned around to find out what was going on, and paled at the sight of the meter’s reading. "Holy cow!" he breathed. "Egon?"
The blond scientist’s face was frowning in dismay. "Any second now."
The mayor finished his speech, which officially declared today to be ‘Lemp Mansion Day’, and accepted a pair of scissors from Decker. The politician stepped forward to cut the ribbon.
"Uh-oh…" Winston muttered, having just spotted the meter reading.
The ribbon split, the edges drifting lazily to the ground…
…and the sky darkened ominously.
Five hands lunged behind five backs and grabbed five particle throwers.
The mayor and Decker glanced up uneasily at the now grey-black sky, as did the crowd.
The five particle throwers screeched into life.
A piercing wail, filled with anger, anguish and agony, sliced through the still air.
And with a loud squish of ectoplasm, a yellow-white specter exploded from the top floor of the mansion, heading straight for the party at the front door. Decker and the mayor stood paralyzed, unable to scream as the hideous apparition drew ever closer.
"FIRE!" yelled Peter.
Five harmless rainbows of light danced playfully through the air, producing a ripple of "oohs" and "ahhs" from the multitude, but doing nothing to the ghost whatsoever.
"The throwers!" Ray exclaimed. "We’ve got them all set on minimum burst!"
"Everybody reset the pack of the person next to you!" Egon ordered, grabbing Janine and turning her around to do just that. In the midst of this activity, however, no one noticed that the ghost had abandoned its original plan of attack; the colorful light show had just attracted it to a brand new target.
"Egon—look out!" Winston cried in warning.
Startled, Spengler turned around just in time to encounter the phantasm face-to-face. There was a disgusting splurch; drenched in ectoplasm, Egon fell backwards while the ghost cackled in triumph as it ascended for a second pass.
"Peter, Ray—try to get it in a crossfire while I make sure Egon’s okay!" Zeddemore called out. He hurried over to his fallen comrade; Janine was already there, struggling to wipe the sticky goop from Egon’s face.
"God, this stuff is terrible!" she said, making a face of utter distaste. "And it smells even worse."
"Yeah, but the odor reminds me of something," commented Winston as he held some in his hand, then studied his friend. "Egon?"
Spengler looked up blankly. His eyes were unfocused, and an incredibly insipid grin was spreading slowly across his face. "Hi."
Nearby, Ray and Peter struggled to catch the rampaging spirit as it dove again and again into the crowd.
"Will! Will!" it shrieked over and over.
The people panicked, running away in droves and nearly trampling the unfortunate souls who’d been slimed in the attacks. Finally, the ghost screamed one last time before vanishing into the mansion; the two battling ‘busters reluctantly switched off their throwers and joined the others.
Winston was waving a hand in front of Egon’s face. The blond scientist’s grin was widening into a big toothy grin.
"Hi!" he said again.
"What happened to Egon?" Ray asked.
"Beats me," replied Winston. "If I didn’t know better, though, I’d swear the man was drunk."
"He ought to be," Janine said, sniffing the air and wrinkling her nose in disgust. "He smells like he fell into a vat of beer."
"Drunk?" Peter echoed as he studied Spengler’s behavior. "Drunk, nothing. Guys, Egon is faced!"
"Hi," repeated Egon happily, looking up at Janine with puppy-dog eyes.
"You certainly are," she sighed.
"Let me get a sample," Ray said, pushing past Peter and snagging a long droplet of the yellow goop into a specimen container. Nearby, policemen were helping several thoroughly inebriated victims to their extremely shaky feet.
Decker hurried up to where the Ghostbusters were crouched.
"Look at this!" he sobbed, not even noticing the mayor and his entourage scurrying back into the limousine. "My opening is ruined! Who’ll ever want to come here after this? I’m finished!"
"You can cry about that later," Janine snapped. "We’re taking Egon inside." Peter and Winston each got an arm under their limp comrade and slowly hauled the dead weight up into a somewhat precarious upright position.
"Inside my restaurant?" sniffed Decker disdainfully. "With all that…that goop dripping off him? I hardly think so."
Ray hurried up to the front door and peered inside. "Actually, Mr. Decker, I wouldn’t worry about that too much if I were you."
"What do you mean? What?" The entrepreneur flew up the steps and ran through the doorway…subsequently skidding across the thoroughly-slimed floor and falling face-first into a large mass of ectoplasm.
Janine and Ray carefully made their way into the establishment while the others flopped Egon down onto the front porch. Every square inch of every room was coated with the repulsive substance; it dripped lazily from the ceiling and trickled down the walls, splotching the metallic chairs and tables, and coalescing into thick wads of goo on the checkerboard floor.
With an effort, Stantz was able to pull Decker free. His face was now totally vapid and carefree. "I feel so happy…" the would-be restaurant operator sighed, his eyes trying to roll about in opposite directions.
"That’s good," Janine smiled down at him. "Now, we’re going to go back to the hotel and take care of Egon. You’re going to sit here and figure out how you’re going to pay the balance of our contract, okay?"
"Okey-dokey," answered Decker with a giggle.
* * * * *
"It took three showers, but I finally got that stuff off him," Janine announced as she entered Peter and Winston’s hotel room. "He’s all tucked in and sound asleep, with the dreamiest little smile on his face." She turned to Ray and smiled apologetically. "Uhh…I’d consider using this bathroom, if I were you."
"The Adams Mark is not going to be amused," Winston chuckled.
"Hey, Decker’s paying for it, not us, remember?" Peter replied. "So, did you get a chance to analyze that stuff, Ray?"
"As best I could," Stantz said with a shrug. "Our field research kit is back in New York, so there wasn’t much I could do. But we’re dealing with a Class Six Full-Body Repeater, one that has some particularly unique talents."
"Yeah, one hit and you’re drunk as a skunk," Janine sighed.
"Alcoholic ectoplasm." Peter shook his head in wry amusement.
"Ectohol?" suggested Winston.
"I like it," Venkman agreed. "All the buzz of normal beer and no calories to worry about. Maybe when we catch this gooper, we ought to take it over to Anheuser-Busch."
"Wait a second." Janine raised her hand. "I’ve had my hands in this stuff several times now, but I’m not even remotely drunk. Yet Egon and Decker got sozzled. What gives, Ray?"
"I ran a check with the gigameter," Stantz replied. "This stuff has a very low Gloeckner-Hoffmeister ratio. It’s sort of like building up a static charge when you rub your feet on a rug or carpet, then touch something metallic or another person. One brief zap, and the charge is gone."
"How long is this going to last?" Winston inquired.
Ray shrugged. "No telling. As a guess, Egon will come out of it first, since he only got a faceful of the stuff. Mr. Decker practically took a bath in it."
"So what about the ghost?" Peter asked. "Any ideas on that score, Ray?"
The occultist nodded. "We’re probably dealing with the ghost of Charles Lemp. He was the last of the family to live in the mansion, and he committed suicide in his bedroom. Hoener and Goodwilling’s reports indicate that his name came up most often in the summonings." Stantz looked out the window at the sunny landscape outside. "And for a family that founded a brewery dynasty, alcoholic ectoplasm is pretty fitting."
"So what do we do?" Winston asked, flopping down on the far bed and stretching out. "We don’t have a contract to nab this one, you know."
"Decker won’t mind," Peter replied, a faraway look in his eyes. "So long as that Class Six is running around, he can’t open for business. And if he can’t operate, he can’t pay us."
"What’s on your mind, Dr. Venkman?" Janine asked, her features narrowing in suspicion.
"Oh, nothing. Just wondering what kind of hangover Egon’s going to have when he wakes up."
* * * * *
"Could all of you please stop breathing so loudly?" Egon moaned the next morning as Ray parked their rental van in front of the Lemp Mansion. Janine gave him a sympathetic look to go with three aspirin and a cup of coffee; Peter and Winston grinned at one another and pretended to study the newspaper.
"They got some great shots of you, Janine," Peter said casually. "This one here looks like some slime is trickling right down between your…"
"Oh, shut up, Dr. Venkman," Janine grumbled.
"Well, here we are!" Ray declared cheerily. "Let’s get our gear and take a look around."
Egon winced at his partner’s perpetually perky voice, but managed to stumble out of the van and join the others. The instant he activated his P.K.E. meter, however, Spengler quickly returned to form.
"I’m getting strong readings from inside," he announced.
"I was afraid you’d say that," Peter sighed. "Day-old slime is like dried-up snot, and it’s just sticky enough to cling to anything that gets near it. I’m gonna end up looking like a used handkerchief."
"Well, as my daddy used to say, ‘It’s the job you never start that takes longest to finish’," Winston quoted as he headed for the front door.
A very pale, very hungover Decker stumbled out of the entrance toward them, his wrinkled and rumpled clothing covered with slime splotches. "Oh God, I’m ruined, I’m completely ruined. Right now, death would be a profound blessing," he groaned, then noticed he had an audience. "What are you doing here?"
"We came to catch your ghost," Peter replied.
"And we’ll do it free of charge," Ray added. "With the Class Six out of the way and some quick clean-up work, you’ll be back in business before you know it, sir."
Peter’s eyes widened and his mouth opened to protest, but a swift kick in the leg by Janine shut him up.
"Let’s go, guys," Stantz continued, waving his partners on. "Let’s nab that gooper!"
"One minute, Raymond," Egon cautioned. "The readings I took yesterday would indicate that our target is located in a series of caverns beneath the mansion. We aren’t equipped for a task such as this."
The news stopped Ray in his tracks.
"Hmm," Winston mused. "We’d need flashlights, or maybe those helmets with the built-in lights would be better. Shouldn’t be too hard to buy here."
"With what?" demanded Peter. "Decker’s broke, and right now we’re pretty much the same way."
Janine stepped forward, a smug smile on her face. "Dr. Venkman, you leave that to me."
"I don’t believe it," Peter muttered for the fortieth time as they descended into the basement. "Janine has a platinum American Express card."
"Don’t leave home without it," she wisecracked. "Don’t worry, Dr. Venkman. You’ve got thirty days to repay me. In full."
Peter shivered at the thought. "And I’ll be counting those days." He shifted his proton pack slightly. "Where’s this door you were talking about, Egon?"
"It’s right over…there." Spengler gestured with his P.K.E. meter at the doorway he’d discovered the day before.
As the Ghostbusters moved toward it, Janine glanced at all the antique furnishings that were piled throughout the basement, and she shook her head. "What a waste," she said sadly.
"What’s that?" inquired Winston.
"All this beautiful stuff locked away down here, when all it needs is a little restoration and repair. This would be a quaint little place if it weren’t for all that junk Decker bought."
"This is it," announced Egon as he threw the door open. The antennae’s arms jumped as a cool breeze whispered around them.
Janine peered into the darkness. "Yuck."
"Then it’s a good thing we got these," said Winston as he switched on his helmet light. The others quickly followed suit as he led the way down the stairs. "Careful of the steps. They don’t feel all that sturdy."
The Ghostbusters made their way into the cool, damp depths. Their helmet lights strained to pierce the shadows with their pale beams.
Janine shivered and moved closer to Egon. "What did they do with these caves, anyway?" she asked, glancing around uneasily.
"Refrigeration," Egon replied, his eyes focused on the meter. "They were ideal for breweries as an inexpensive means of climate control. Ray, the readings are building."
"I guess that’s a good sign," Stantz said, a hint of uncertainty coloring his voice. "But how are we going to get the ghost to materialize?"
"We could bring Decker down here," suggested Winston.
"Not necessary," Peter said breezily, "thought it would be fun. Here, now watch a master at work." He stepped forward and cleared his throat. "So what did Decker say he was going to do with this section, guys?" His voice carried loud and clear through the cellars. "Isn’t this where the jacuzzi and the swimming pool are going?"
The antennae on the meter practically stood straight up; the lights on the tips were blinking so rapidly they appeared to be shining steadily. Egon nodded, and Peter continued. "Yeah, and what else was he going to do? Weren’t there going to be a bunch of barmaids in skimpy little outfits? The lovely Lemp Ladies?"
A long, ululating howl looped through the darkness.
"Get ready," Ray warned, thumb on the switch of his particle thrower. "LOOK OUT!" came his cry as the beer-colored phantasm came roaring at them from the ceiling.
The group opened fire, forcing the spirit to abandon its original plan of attack. It returned to the ceiling and circled around them from above, shrieking in frustration as the particle beams continued to harass it.
"Got him on the run, guys!" Peter yelled cockily.
"Don’t be too sure," Egon cautioned.
At that very moment, the entity stopped dead, allowing its lower torso to snap around and send huge globs of ectoplasm directly at its attackers.
"Oh, no!" Janine cried out as one yellow missile struck her arm. Within seconds, her particle thrower grew too heavy to hold up and her legs turned to jello. "Oh, wow," she breathed, sinking to the floor.
"Gah!" Ray yelled as a second mass splashed against his chest. Instantly his expression grew vapid and a stupid grin slipped across his face as he, too, melted to the floor. Winston and Egon found cover together behind a cabinet; Peter ducked under a convenient table.
"Winston, Egon—try and drive him toward me!" called Venkman.
As a team, Spengler and Zeddemore jumped out from their cover and fired simultaneously at the screaming specter, which flew in the desired direction…then divebombed Venkman, who had rolled out from under the table but couldn’t get the thrower aimed in time.
"Peter—DUCK!" Winston cried.
There was a loud, disgusting squoosh and Peter could just barely be made out beneath a mountain of ectohol as the ghost ascended once more. But to their surprise, Venkman fought his way out of the goop and staggered forward.
"Let’s try..hic..try it again!" he yelled.
"You sure you can?" Winston bellowed back.
"Abshohiclootely!" Peter assured him with a lazy wave. "I shurvived acahic…acahic…college keggars for hic years! Heck, thish ish nuthin’!"
"Frankly, I think this is hopeless," Egon muttered from Zeddemore’s side.
"You got any better ideas?" Winston inquired.
"As a matter of fact…I…er…no."
"I was afraid you’d say that. Let’s do it! Ready?"
Spengler nodded and joined his partner in a twin burst of particle beams; the ghost screamed furiously as it just managed to avoid the assault. But the instant it moved, a third beam snared and held it securely. Peter grinned as he struggled to keep the entity entangled.
"Whattya waitin’ hic for?" he demanded.
Winston laughed and shook his head in disbelief as he rolled a trap directly beneath the spirit. "Goin’ down!" he yelled, stamping his foot on the activator pedal. The eerie halo from the trap bathed the writhing entity and dragged it inexorably down into its contours. Seconds later, it was all over. The unit beeped twice, sounding quite pleased with itself.
Egon and Winston hurried over to their stricken comrades. Peter gave a sigh and slowly sank to the cellar floor.
"Shee?" he chuckled to Spengler. "Pieshe of hic cake, jus’ like I tole ya. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll pash out." His eyes closed, and a contented snore passed his lips.
Winston helped Janine and Ray into sitting positions, then turned to Egon. "You got any ideas on how we’re going to get them out of here?"
"One at a time?" suggested Spengler.
"I was afraid you’d say that, too."
* * * * *
With the capture of the Lemp ghost, Decker’s restaurant was finally able to open peacefully two days later. The Ghostbusters enjoyed a four-day vacation in St. Louis, seeing the sights and sampling the many delicacies the city had to offer. The only down side of the vacation was that the ghost trap sat beeping quietly in a corner of Ray and Egon’s room, which hadn’t been cleaned in days because none of the hotel staff would dare venture inside.
At the end of the week they headed over to the Lemp Mansion to collect the balance of their fee. Decker ushered them into the empty confines of the restaurant, looking more glum than ever.
"Where is everybody?" Janine asked, looking around in amazement. "I thought this was going to be the in-spot for this town."
"It was," Decker nodded miserably. "Unfortunately, it no longer has the one thing that would make it hot."
"What?" Janine glanced at the interior, trying not to wince at the sight of all the ugly furnishings. "Looks like you got everything cleaned up."
"Think about it, Janine," Ray said with a slight smile, and shrugged. "What made this place interesting?"
"The fact that it was haun…oh."
Decker flopped into a chair and gazed at the ceiling. "The pictures of you five coming out of the mansion with that trap made it quite clear that the Lemp Mansion is no longer haunted. Without that aura of mystery…it’s just another place to eat." He turned to face Venkman. "Let the ghost go."
"Huh?" Peter wasn’t expecting such a development. "But that gooper destroyed your place last time! What makes you think it won’t again?"
"I’m broke. I’m closing at the end of the week. What difference does it make?" Decker raised his hands into the air in defeat. "Let it slime the entire place if it wants, I don’t care anymore. Let it go."
"But what will you do?" asked Janine.
"I don’t know," Decker said with a sad shrug. "But the Lemp Mansion needs its ghost. Let it go."
For the first time, Egon’s voice entered the conversation. "Actually, I have an idea that may result in a compromise between you and the entity, Mr. Decker."
The entrepreneur’s face brightened slightly, but he was still wary. "Go on."
"This mansion has been haunted for at least forty years, yet the violent manifestations only started when you arrived and significantly altered the appearance of the interior. By their very nature, ghosts are anachronisms—echoes of the past. As a result, they are very particular about keeping the areas they haunt consistent with the period in which they lived."
"Of course!" Ray snapped his fingers in realization. "Mr. Decker, if you would consider changing your décor one more time, I think you can have your restaurant and a peaceful ghost all at the same time. Just change it back to the way it looked while the Lemps lived here."
Decker grimaced. "Surely you jest."
"Actually," Janine jumped in, "the place looks kinda weird like this. I might come in once, just to see it. But if it was a perfectly restored restaurant, you know, the sort of place to go and soak up the atmosphere of the times…and with the knowledge that it was haunted…" She let the comment trail off.
"People will keep coming back in hopes of seeing the spook," Winston finished. "And they’ll get to see a piece of history. The ghost stays happy, and you’ll make money. Sounds like a great deal to me."
"What can I say?" Decker remarked. "You win."
Peter shook the other man’s hand, then turned to Stantz. "Ray, make that one gooper to stay, if you don’t mind."
"Boy, that was all in all a pretty neat vacation," said Ray as their taxicab pulled up in front of Ghostbusters Central the next evening. "And what a great case study, huh, Egon?"
"Ummm…yes, Raymond, it certainly was." Egon was understandably distracted; Janine was snuggled up against him, sound asleep. Spengler was trying to find a way to extricate himself without waking her, and having no success.
"Well, I hate to admit it, but it’s good to be home," Peter said as he paid the driver and gave Janine a nudge in the ribs. The redhead jerked awake abruptly, blinked several times in confusion, then reluctantly freed Egon from her embrace before exiting the cab.
Peter eyed the front of the firehall. "Looks like nothing happened while we were g…"
"PEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTAAAAAHHHHHHH!" A green missile swooped down from the third story and splattered all over Venkman before he could finish his sentence. The resulting scream echoed wildly about the deserted street, drowning out the amused chuckles from his friends.
"Fascinating," Egon murmured, drawing closer to examine Slimer. "He reintegrated even more quickly than I originally hypothesized. Perhaps further tests could determine his recovery rate."
Winston draped a companionable arm around Janine and Ray. "Guys, let’s face it—there ain’t no place like home!"
Writer’s notes—I’ve always had a fondness for this story. At the time, I was tired of all the fanfic stories that featured made-up places and creatures and demigods—why not try using something really reputed to be haunted? As it turned out, I’d just bought a book about the Lemp Mansion, and while "Allen Decker" is made up (his garish restaurant idea, too), the Lemp is still a going concern today. I also love the bit where Egon explains what happened to Slimer…he was always good at giving a little information at a time, with each piece making the entire big picture that much worse!
For more information on the Lemp Mansion, try this web page.