"Okay, okay, I get it, Egon," Peter grumbled as he leaned back in his desk chair. ""I'm entitled to a few mistakes every now and then. Right, Ray?"
"Hm?" said Ray's voice, which came from across the room, somewhere under the hood of the Ecto-1A.
Egon, who had been lecturing Peter for the past fifteen minutes or so, sighed in exasperation.
"Peter, Ray and I didn't build an extensive and advanced security system for the firehouse just so you could take out the garbage and forget to lock the side door when you came back in."
"Egon, like I said, it was an honest mistake, alright? Ray, help me out here!" pleaded Peter.
"Sorry, Pete," said Ray, popping up from the front end of the car. "I'm afraid you deserve it this time."
"Yeah," Winston chimed in as he came down the stairs. "I mean, what if a serial killer got in here? Or a mugger? Or a Jehova's Witness?"
"It was only a hobo," Peter replied.
"Dr. Venkman, if I may?" said Janine, who had been typing furiously on her computer for the past several minutes. "There's nothing in my job description that says I'm supposed to chase hobos out of the building at one in the morning. Next time I'll let him stay."
"Et tu, Janine?" muttered Peter. "Fine. It won't happen again, cross my heart."
Dr. Venkman crossed his heart in a very unenthusiastic way, then glared at Egon.
"Satisfied, Mr. Magoo?"
"No," said Egon, who immediately headed for the staircase.
As he was making his way up the stairs, Janine's phone suddenly rang. Without even looking away from her computer screen, the red-haired secretary lifted the receiver and held it a few centimeters away from her ear, just in case.
"Ghostbusters...Uh-huh? Yeah? Alright, they'll be over in...huh?"
She bit her lip. Winston noticed this, and went over to Janine's desk. He was well aware that Janine only bit her lip when the person on the phone was being difficult. There was silence for a few moments, and then…
"I'm not sure about that...let me check with them."
Peter, who had been sulking at his desk, suddenly stood up and rushed to Janine's side.
"What is it, Janine? More fake IRS calls?"
Janine covered the bottom of the receiver with one hand and turned to face him.
"No, Dr. Venkman. This client here, he has a 'request', and it's one I've never gotten before. And believe me, I've gotten everything."
Winston and Peter both raised their eyebrows. This seemed to get Ray's attention too, because he immediately dropped what he was doing and joined his fellow Ghostbusters at the desk.
"What kind of 'request'?" asked Peter.
"He doesn't want Egon to come. Says he's nervous about having him around his family."
"What!?" said Ray. "Let me talk to him!"
"Calm down, Ray. It's a perfectly reasonable request," injected Peter.
But it was too late. Janine had already handed Ray the phone.
"Hello? Sir, I assure you each of our employees are highly qualified professionals who would never, under any circumstances...What article?"
For almost a minute, Ray didn't say a thing. Then, he slowly lowered the receiver and handed it back to Janine. He looked stunned.
"The guy hung up on me. Said something about a tabloid article painting Egon as a 'menace'."
"A what?" said Winston in disbelief.
"Seriously?" Peter chimed in. "I mean, Egon is a lot of things, but menace isn't one of the top five adjectives I'd use to describe him."
"Janine, did you get yesterday's mail?" Ray asked in an urgent tone.
"Yeah. It's right on the desk, as usual," Janine replied.
The four of them turned to look at Peter's desk. In a flash, the three Ghostbusters were standing over it, pushing various stacks of magazines and newspapers out of the way in an attempt to find the incriminating tabloid. At last, Winston produced a magazine with a large picture of a frowning Egon on the front.
"I think this is it, guys," he said. "Take a look at that headline."
The other two crowded around him to see what their fourth member was talking about. Across the bottom of the page, in big, yellow letters, were the words:
"EGON SPENGLER: SOCIETAL MENACE? SEE FOR YOURSELF IN THIS SHOCKING ARTICLE!"
To say the Ghostbusters were surprised by these words would be an understatement. They were utterly bewildered and extremely confused. Egon, a menace to society? Who in their right mind would write an article like that?
"Read it, Zee," said Ray in a worried tone.
Winston carefully opened the magazine to the first page. He began to read it aloud.
"The Ghostbusters. For years, these four men have been associated with tales of heroism and bravery. Time and time again, their unique skills have saved the city from disaster. But how much do we really know about them? Is there something more to these so-called 'ghost exterminators' than meets the eye? Are their motives really altruistic, or is there something more sinister going on behind the scenes?"
"Blah, blah, blah," yawned Peter. "This kind of stuff isn't new. Get to the part about Egon."
Winston gave Peter a hard look before continuing.
"...which brings us to the Ghostbusters' most elusive member; Dr. Egon Spengler. Known among some media circles as 'The Silent One', this member of the team seems to almost completely shun the media. Dr. Spengler has made only limited appearances with his fellow Ghostbusters on a few late night talk shows, and even then, he seems to let his co-workers do most of the talking. The private lives of doctors Stanz, Venkman, and Zeddemore have long been public knowledge, but even now, so many years after the Ghostbusters first opened for business, Dr. Spengler's background is still a complete mystery. Who is he? Where does he come from? What has he done? The answer, my friends, is far more sinister than you think."
Winston glanced over the rest of the article quickly. When he was done, he pressed his hand against his forehead and sighed.
"It's not pretty," Winston said. "This reporter guy goes on to say he interviewed a couple of people Egon 'experimented' on. They say he's some sort of emotionless monster who'll do anything to 'sate his demented curiosity'."
"Give me that!" said Ray.
He took the magazine from Winston and read it carefully. In a few moments, the normally calm Ghostbuster was trembling with anger.
"This is complete bull****." growled Ray. "That one guy they interviewed told us he knew the risks involved in the process! And he only lost 49% of his hair follicles! Everything else is either ridiculously exaggerated or completely made up!"
Ray passed the magazine to Peter, who looked at the article for about two seconds before plopping it back on the desk.
"Wow," he said. "That was harsh, even by my standards. I mean, Egon isn't the most cuddly guy in the world, but a crazed-lobotomy-obsessed-maniac? That's a bit much."
"The problem is, this whole mess is kind of our fault," Ray said sadly.
"What do you mean?" asked Winston.
"Think about it," replied Ray. "All the press we've gotten over the years. It was always me or Peter who did most of the talking. Egon's just not good at that kind of thing, and he never has been. I thought it'd be best if he stayed out of the spotlight, but those rabid meat-for-brains reporters were never satisfied, and because they couldn't get enough info out of any of us, they've resorted to making up their own information or digging it up themselves and twisting it into something spectacular."
Peter patted Ray on the shoulder.
"Aw, come on Ray. When have we ever given a hoot about public opinion? Remember the time that one lady wrote a tell-all article about yours truly?"
"Yeah, but most of that stuff was true," muttered Ray.
"Exactly. And you know what happened to us? Absolutely nothing! People read this kind of garbage in the papers every day, and it never affects anyone. Just ask the politicians in this city! Honestly, I think we're all overreacting."
Ray and Winston looked at Peter with very unconvinced expressions on their faces.
"Trust me, by this time next week the guy who called us and the people who read this thing will have forgotten it ever existed. I say we toss this hot little piece of gossip in my conveniently located wastebasket and pretend it never happened."
"Dr. Venkman," Janine interjected. "What should I say if I get any more calls like that last one?"
"You won't get any more, Janine. This is what we call an 'isolated case'."
Ray rolled his eyes.
"Janine," he said. "Just tell them that we're sorry, but the Ghostbusters don't accept requests like that. In this line of work we need all hands on deck, no matter how unpopular they may be."
Winston and Ray stared at Peter, who simply shrugged.
"What?" he asked.
Ray sighed, and began to walk back towards the front of the car.
"One last thing before we 'pretend this never happened'," asked Winston. "Do you think we should tell Egon about this article? I mean, if people suddenly start hating him for no reason, he deserves to know why."
"I wouldn't bother," said Ray.
Winston and Peter glanced at each other, but both were silent. They figured the article would be forgotten quickly, and besides, it wouldn't have any impact on their daily lives even if it wasn't.
They would soon discover how very wrong they were.