It was one of the longest days they'd worked in over a year. Ghost sightings all over the city had kept them busy from before dawn and now, at their final stop, it was nearly midnight. Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddemore followed as Ray Stantz led the group to the door of the embroidery warehouse where their client was just unlocking the door.
She was middle aged with light brown hair pulled into a messy bun on her head. She had a friendly smile on her round face despite the exhaustion in her eyes.
"You guys have got to be the Ghostbusters." The owner shook each of their hands as she ushered them in. "I'm Margaret Wilson. Sorry you had to come all the way out here so late. But I understand you've been busy the past few weeks."
"Yes…that tends to happen when we're the only business with these specific qualifications. That and it's October…everyone always gets superstitious around Halloween." Peter said, as he followed the other three Ghostbusters into the dark building.
"I actually just got here, so give me a second to turn on the warehouse lights for you before you go in." Margaret said as she rushed off to a side room. Egon, the brains of the group pulled out his P.K.E meter and quickly began scanning the room for traces of the anomaly Ms. Wilson had called them about earlier in the week. Winston leaned casually against a large wooden desk in the center of the room, resting his aching legs for the moment.
"Got anything, Spengler?" Ray asked expectantly. Egon shook his head, a puzzled frown etched on his face. Peter stood in the doorway a blank expression on his face, half asleep.
"Oh, I don't know if you'll find anything in this room, she doesn't come in here as far as I know." Margaret walked back into the room and gestured to another door to the opposite wall. "She tends to stay in the workroom. Come, on I'll show you."
"Did you say, 'she'?" Ray asked as he moved to follow her. She nodded as she opened the door to the warehouse.
"How do you know the ghost is a female?" Winston asked as he slowly rose to his feet again to follow the others into the room.
"Because she's been here ever since a week after she died. She used to be an employee of mine."
"And how long have these occurrences been going on?" Egon questioned, taking his eyes away from his P.K.E. meter for only a second. The meter had still made no move to indicate that the anomaly was near.
"A little over two years now. Like I said, she's been here since about a week after she died." Margaret gestured at the four large embroidery machines in the front of the warehouse. "She doesn't come up here much…I think she prefers the back corner."
"So…you knew this ghost?" Winston pondered. "Who was she?"
"Her name was Melanie. Melanie Collins. She was maybe in her early twenties when she died. She'd been with the company for a little over a year give or take a month. She only worked part time so she wasn't here for long stretches at a time. She was a sweet girl. Graduated from high school then moved straight on to work after a few months. I think she was just trying to get a feel for the world around her before she moved on to more permanent things." Margaret seemed to look a little downcast as she spoke of her former employee.
"So… why do you think she's hanging around?" Ray asked quietly. Margaret looked up at him.
"She was in a car accident on the way here to work one morning. We've decided she still wanted to come in." She gave a half smile as she thought about it.
"Hey, free labor." Peter said with a smirk. The other three men snickered.
"Is she hostile?" Ray asked, wanting to move on to the back of the warehouse to wrap things up. Margaret looked up hastily and shook her head.
"Oh no, not at all. She mainly just…works. When she was…still here…we would have her work in the back unpacking boxes of clothing to be counted and sorted and then moved to the women in the front for them to embroider. And…that's what she still does."
The Ghostbusters gave each other questioning looks.
"So why did you call us?" Ray spoke finally, confusion in his voice.
"I didn't. That was one of my employees, Brenda. She's never really liked the idea of having a ghost for a coworker and I think she got a little overwhelmed the other day when her machine cut off on her."
"You mean, as in her machine was cut off by Melanie?" Ray suggested. Margaret nodded sheepishly.
"Yeah…but that's as close to hostile as she gets though. The machines will cut on or off by themselves a few times a day randomly. She doesn't hurt anything or anyone though, it's just like she's trying to get our attention. Like she's bored and in need of more work. Usually sending a few more boxes back there for her helps to keep her occupied while the rest of the women here are working."
"Are you able to see the ghost?" Winston asked. Margaret shook her head and pulled out her cellphone from her jacket pocket. She flipped through a few things while speaking.
"We've had a security camera installed just for this reason. Once we started noticing these strange things going on around here, we set it up near Melanie's old workspace." She finally pulled up what she was looking for and turned the phone so that the four Ghostbusters could crowd around it to look.
The camera was focused on two long wooden tables pushed together, crowded with half a dozen cardboard boxes and a few sheets of paper. As the video went along, a box cutter slowly but steadily rose from the table's surface and clicked open. As the Ghostbusters eagerly watched, the cutter slowly cut the closest cardboard box open and then closed and was replaced back onto the table. The box opened to reveal several bagged shirts which proceeded to float out of the box in two neat stacks. They seemed to separate by color and then one by one they were counted out and then replaced back into the box which closed expertly and set gently on the other side of the table.
"This is amazing…an actual intelligent spirit!" Ray exclaimed.
"She does this all day, every day?" Peter asked in disbelief. "She must get sick of that endless work…"
"Maybe that kind of mindless trivial work is what's keeping her here." Egon said quietly.
"Could you show us where the table is?" Ray suggested. His eagerness to make contact with the ghost had replaced his eagerness to get the job done. Margaret nodded and then led them towards the back of the warehouse.
"I hope you won't take her away though…she really isn't hostile at all. I almost wish Brenda hadn't called you to come all the way out here."
"Well…if she isn't a bother…maybe we could use her for research purposes…?" Ray suggested, turning to Egon.
As they walked, Egon still held his P.K.E. meter waiting for a reaction. They passed a folding machine that lay dormant to the right against the warehouse wall. As they walked by the machine, Egon could have sworn he heard a clicking noise. When he swiped the meter towards the machine it gave off a small bleep but then went silent. His shoulders slumped and he continued following the group.
"This is where she works." Margaret said as they came upon the back left corner of the warehouse room. The two tables stood side by side, one box laying open on the table's surface. A few shirts lay out on the tabletop in front of the box. Nothing moved.
"When was that video taken?" Ray asked as he studied the scene in front of him.
"Uh…that was last night. But this afternoon before I left, I checked on her back here and she was still working steadily. In fact, I came to tell her to take a break. She never listens though." She grinned.
The tables in front of the Ghostbusters were silent. Nothing happened as they all seemed to hold their breath. After several moments, Margaret finally spoke up.
"Don't be shy in front of these guys, Melanie. They're just here to see what you can do." She called out, looking around the workspace. Everything remained still. After a moment, the overhead florescent light flickered but the P.K.E meter remained quiet. The owner frowned and sighed halfheartedly, turning back to the experts.
"I'm sorry. She's not usually like this. We had some interested people come in once or twice when we first noticed her but she would work like normal around them. I don't know what's gotten into her."
"Maybe she's crossed over?" Winston suggested. Egon shook his head.
"I've got some slight readings but nothing major…" Egon trailed off as he stepped closer to the tables. A booming crash echoed around the room, making each of the five people jump.
"What was that?" Ray turned around back towards the front of the warehouse where the noise had come from.
"It sounded like a box hitting the floor up front. She gets a little defensive about her territory." Margaret said. She started walking back up to the front, followed by Ray and Winston who went along to check out the disturbance.
"You getting anything yet, Egon? I'm ready to go home." Peter said, leaning against a stack of boxes. Egon stood where he was, slowly scanning around the tables. The meter made a small whirring sound as he passed it over the open box and shirts.
"Nothing but the traces from where she's moved the shirts. I can't seem to find where she actually is. It's strange…" Egon moved further down the table to the left wall of the building where a large garage door stood locked. The trail got cold as he neared the door.
"She must be good at hide and seek." Peter yawned.
"Hey Pete! Egon! Come up here! The bathroom faucet is on and it's bleeding!" Ray called excitedly. Peter stood up and stumbled towards the front while Egon stayed back to see if he could pick up the trail again.
He turned back around from the garage door and slowly the meter started whirring again. He got the same readings as before when he passed it closer to the open box and then decided to try turning to the wall of boxes behind Melanie's workspace.
The machine went berserk. The whirring sound was suddenly accompanied by blinking yellow lights as the little arms of the P.K.E. meter flew straight up. Egon's heart started beating rapidly as he slowly raised his eyes to the top of the wall of boxes, a fierce cold breeze blowing his brown hair.
A girl laid there, her chin resting in her hands. She was staring down at him, amusement flickering in her eyes. She had pink cheeks and shoulder length wavy brown hair. She was in a plain black T-shirt and jeans, and what looked like bare feet. She seemed completely alive, yet the meter didn't lie. Egon could only stare back at the girl in confusion.
"That thing looks like it's about to blow up or something." She said quietly, nodding towards the P.K.E. meter in his hand. He glanced down into his hand to see that smoke had indeed started to emit from the device. He quickly shut it off and let his hand fall to his side. The girl still lay causally on top of the boxes staring down at Egon, studying him almost as much as he was studying her.
"Your name wouldn't be Melanie by any chance, now would it?" Egon broke the silence. She blinked and her smile widened. The fluorescent lights in the room pulsed and flickered.
"Spengler, where are you?"
Egon turned toward Ray's voice echoing from the front of the building. He regretted his movement as soon as he did it. As he swung his gaze back towards the top of the box wall, Melanie was gone. He stared at the boxes willing her to come back as he switched the P.K.E meter back on. The device gave a short pulse of light and then exploded in his hand. He quickly dropped it and spun around.
"I'm sorry, did I do that?"
Egon nearly fell backwards. Melanie had moved down to the ground behind him. He tried to gain his footing and braced himself against the table. She was his height, looking him straight in the eyes. Then he noticed that she was floating nearly a foot from the ground, her bare feet dangling in midair. She still seemed puzzled.
"Can you really see me?" She asked hopefully. Egon nodded. Her blue-green eyes twinkled as she smiled at him.
"Has no one been able to see you until now?" He asked. She slowly shook her head.
"Hey Egon…" Peter called as he made his way to the back of the warehouse. Egon didn't let his eyes leave the ghost in front of him as he called back to answer.
"What are you doing? We thought you'd be interested in stuff like this?" Peter held up a container of red liquid. Egon slowly half turned to look at the sample in Peter's hand.
"Oh, okay. Thanks Venkman." He reached for the container but Peter pulled it away.
"Who were you talking to? Did you find the ghost?" He asked half interested. Egon paused. He glanced back to Melanie who was stifling a giggle. Egon looked back at Peter who was waiting patiently for an answer. Clearly he couldn't see her.
"I found her." He said softly. He raised an eyebrow as Melanie floated closer between the two men.
"You didn't call us!" Ray protested as he jogged up behind Peter. Egon narrowed his eyes, noticing that Ray didn't acknowledge the girl beside him either.
"Too caught up in the moment, huh Egon?" Winston said as he joined the group.
"Where's Margaret?" Egon asked changing the subject. Ray thumbed over his shoulder.
"She's cleaning up the mess in the bathroom. The sink started overflowing with this blood…" Ray swiped the container from Peter and handed it to Egon.
"It's not really blood." Melanie said, stifling another laugh. Egon glanced briefly at the girl before acknowledging to his colleagues that it indeed, wasn't real blood. Ray's excited face fell slightly at the news.
"Oh. Well what is it?"
Egon glanced to Melanie who shrugged.
"I'll have it tested back at the lab." He said abruptly. Ray looked at Egon, raising an eyebrow before nodding in agreement.
"So what did you find?" Peter pressed on. Egon flashed him a glance. Ray stepped forward to pick up the broken P.K.E. meter.
"It must have been something big…this is some pretty strong equipment." Ray looked up to Egon waiting for an answer. Egon paused.
"Well. I think I've found her boundaries. She can't seem to leave the building."
"She can't leave or she won't?" Winston asked, curious.
"She can't. The garage door was cold. I got nothing on the meter from the front door either. I assume she's trapped here." Egon said, glancing back to Melanie. She had moved back up to her boxes and was watching the scene in front of her silently.
"That wouldn't destroy the meter…" Ray continued, pressing for more information. Egon's shoulders slumped.
"Yes…I saw her."
The other three Ghostbusters stared at him.
"And?" Ray said excitedly.
Egon raised an eyebrow.
"Where is she? What'd she do?" Peter asked. Egon glanced up to see that Melanie had disappeared once again. He looked around the room, not seeing her anywhere.
"She seemed surprised that I could see her. Apparently none of the other workers have been able to since she's been here."
"Poor girl…" Winston sympathized.
"And she broke the meter?" Ray asked, still studying the smoking remains of the device in his hand.
"She got too close." Egon said smirking.
"Wow…" Ray said, amazed.
"Where is she now, Egon?" Peter asked looking around. Egon shook his head and shrugged.
"She disappeared. I think she was overwhelmed."
"Aww she likes you! That's a good sign, right?" Ray exclaimed.
"Did you gentlemen find anything useful? I finished cleaning the bathroom." Margaret said as she rejoined the group in the back corner of the warehouse.
"We found a little bit, but we'd like to come back once we've reviewed what we found if that's alright with you?" Ray said. Margaret nodded. She exchanged contact information with Ray as Egon looked around one last time. Melanie was nowhere to be seen.
"Okay so next week sounds okay with you? We'll be here." Margaret said. She smiled and turned to lead the way out. Egon stayed back to see if Melanie would reappear once the area cleared out some but she never did. As he turned to leave, he felt a small cool breeze whip his glasses off of his face followed by a small burst of laughter.
"Come back soon Egon."
He caught his glasses before they fell and put them back on hurriedly but when he glanced over his shoulder he still didn't see anything. He stumbled after the other Ghostbusters hurriedly before he was missed.