Chapter 4: Winding Down
I'm stuck in the limbo of just talking out my story to myself, having the immediate inspiration to write it down, but at the time not being able to, and eventually, it's lost.
November 23, 2013,
Ah, the firehouse. Hook and Ladder 8. A place that was initially twice its size before the street made it have to be cut literally in half.
From the outside, most new yorkers knew about its fame or just didn't care much about driving past it. For others, it was always something to stop by and get a picture in front of when visiting. The building itself showed its age with its faded red brick and stone needing a good cleaning. Even the massive front door required a beautiful fresh coat with the ghost logos on the sidewalk needing to be redone. But there was one thing outside that made many smiles and just want even more pictures off.
Hanging above the door with two chains was half of what was the Ghostbusters 2 logo sign swaying gently in the occasional breeze with a smaller but more noticeable sign below reading 'Operations Coming Soon!' in the GB style format. Hell, one vendor that had newspapers even had a generic picture of the station with the sign of the operation under it that read 'Ghostbusting the Original Way! Famed team of real-world supernatural hunters preparing to permanently set up shop in the Big Apple at the original Ghostbusters headquarters seen in the 80s movies.'
There was more to the article than just that, but that was it in a nutshell. And being a few days old and left on the curb told a bit how it was already old news. Though while the outside of the station practically remained the same, on the inside, it was a bit different story.
In the middle of where the fire truck would usually be was a giant industrial dumpster sitting in the middle of the room nearly half loaded with everything shoved towards the back to allow some more room inside where the doors were. The sound of a power saw could be heard above before it abruptly stopped, and a metal pipe came down one of the firepoles just narrowly missing the dumpster. Some shuffling followed, and soon after, the saw was at it once again.
Above on the next floor, Derek was busy cutting away at the structure that made up a small part of a room. What room was it? He didn't know. It was just the skeleton since they first saw it. Most of the walls had been stripped away along with most to all the wiring, depending on where you looked. They had an electric generator to supply power, but given how much stuff they were using it was and having a few space heaters around the place to where they won't start a fire was making it a hazard to work in.
Though when it's only 45 degrees in the middle of November, what do you expect?
Feeling that he had made some good progress in cutting down the wall and that his arm was hurting for holding up the saw for so long, Derek felt that after a good four hours of cutting, it was time for a break.
Placing the saw down on a makeshift workbench that was mostly a stand with a sheet of plywood going around to a pallet of more wood, Derek headed towards the front of the building where the windows overlooked the street. In addition to that, a power cord leading from the generator was a small mini-fridge he had brought for just this occasion along with a TV dinner stand and a foldable chair.
Fetching a drink, he plopped down in the seat with a small dust cloud poofing up around him and sighing as he leaned back and took a long sip before shifting to look out at the street. While rush hour had yet to be reached, the roads were already busy with people doing their last-minute errands before Thanksgiving, and already he could see some stories preparing for Black Friday in three days.
Hell, the only reason that he had the time now to stop by and get some more work done to the place was more for the fact that activity had once again reached a record low. Not as low as last year, but a distinct second as he figured the mood of the holiday season was a bit more potent in New York than Pittsburgh, given its size.
With it, their library bust being the 'largest' they had in a month (once again a strange thing gave how they were preparing for an active Halloween. Though it was more of a treat going around New York and seeing the smiles on people's faces when you drove by with the siren) and comparing to last year, the rest of the month and December would be their dead zones inactivity.
While this did hurt their financial aspect, it gave them some much-needed breathing room to relax truly. Given how the holiday season was turning up, the team felt it would be best to go on and visit family for the time. The Smiths and Roger had already headed back to Pennsylvania two days ago, taking the Smith's truck and leaving Ecto-3 in storage.
Jack and Leo were making some final prep work on the equipment at the hotel to make sure everything would be fine until they came back. Jack had volunteered to stay and watch over most of the stuff since he only lived an hour outside the city. Derek himself and Rachel, along with Leo, would take Ecto-X and head home too early tomorrow to get home in time for Thanksgiving. Mike pretty much was pulled back more into his police duty as he was one of the many NYPD to be preparing for Black Friday and the Macy's Parade.
That very last part made Derek think about their situation again; given their popularity, they had been offered a small place in the annual parade. The plan was to mostly have the Smiths drive the cars in order, given how they wouldn't complain about being in the heat when its 40 degrees out, with the team in gear, just walking along. Nothing too major, but it more or less was more free advertisement when the nation watched you march down the street.
But given how they hadn't heard from Sony about anything in regards to it, it seemed less likely.
They had to be fast with this one. With the holiday and parade back to back with a six-hour drive between Pittsburgh to New York would be hell in of itself. Then having to prepare for the show and just doing that. (Though on the plus side it would help them burn off any extra fat they got from the feast.) Though even if they didn't directly participate, they would still be present as an added layer of security.
After that, it would be back to work in catching up with any calls they might have gotten or get at the time. They did have a planned investigation of the Sea Bear in early to mid-December so that they could finally get to the location where the oil company had found the black slime (though they would have gotten there sooner but red tape got in the way.)
And the firehouse; Derek looked around the place to see what was done and needed to be. With their plans to expand the entire building into the block, they had decided on this area of the floor to be split between a public lab where they would bring clients to run tests with the part closer to the front being a more private lab with the upstairs being their oversized living room with a rec area, kitchen and dining area. Glancing to the corner across from, he could already see where they planned to add a small freight elevator to help move stuff in and out.
But in reality, he, everyone and their mother knew that the building wasn't going to be one hundred percent accurate to each other. In all, the building would fit more to what the 2009 video game did, but that was stretching it too see how much room they really could get. Compared to the original interior of the firehouse belonged to the Engine 23 station in Los Angeles that was nearly double the length of the Hook 8, it was the matter of compacting it to be visually the same and yet more functional to their needs.
Though deep down, Derek knew it could work. Just with enough money and time as all things nowadays are, they can get there.
He went to take another drink when his phone started vibrating in his pocket. Fishing it out, he found his screen with a picture of Rachel giving him a soft smile while sitting in Ecto-3; what he remembered was a Sonic drive-in.
With a swipe, he answered, " 'Ello, govna. How are you?"
"Where are you!? Do you know what time it is?!"
Taken back a bit by her sudden outburst, Derek took a moment to pause and raise his left arm to check his watch.
He felt a knot form within as his eyes went wide with realization, "Oh..."
"Oh... INDEED. We've finished packing and are getting ready to leave now. Leo's already out and has your case and gear waiting downstairs in the lobby."
Fumbling out his chair, he quickly started doing swift work, "Yea-yeah, I got it. I'll be there in about... twenty minutes?" He mentally tried to promptly think of the shortest route from here to the hotel. All signs were pointing to just blasting up 6th Avenue like he usually did if traffic wasn't too bad.
"You have fifteen." The call ended, and at that moment, Derek sprang into action.
As fast as he could, he gathered his tools and placed them in their respective places that he knew would (hopefully) be there once they got back. He disconnected and turned off the generator and shoved it under the workbench after tossing a small cloth tarp over it to keep it a bit more insulated from the cold.
With little heed, he folded his chair and chucked it into the corner where by only friction did its odd angle stop it from just falling to the ground. Looking around for everything, he made sure to have everything, but then looked back to his mini-fridge. Pulling the door open, he still had four 20 ounce bottles left inside along with the one he was just drinking on top of it.
For some, it would be just a case of leaving them there for later since three days aren't much time. But for Derek, it would be a personal sin to abandon such items in these times. Quickly snatching them all in his arms as tight as he could, he ran to the nearest fire pole and slid down.
Only to nearly smash into the dumpster directly below him.
"Oh shit." He tightened his grip around the pole to where he stopped his descent—using his boots and a little wiggle to turn himself to the left to where he would mostly avoid the container.
Dashing around Ecto-X, he fumbled the keys in his hand for a moment before getting the car unlocked and carefully placing his drinks on the passenger seat. Getting the engine going to get the heater going, he dashed over to the garage door controls and hit the switch. Waiting for the agonizing minute as the door slowly reached the top of the ceiling with a heavy clank.
Then in a move that many people do to close the garage door behind him, he hit the switch again as the door began descending. Quickly jumping into the car, he immediately moved passed the door before it could hit his gate as he turned onto North Moore.
Flipping the control switches, he started up the siren and roof lights as he made a sharp turn onto the 6th and gunned it towards the hotel.
14 Minutes Later...
Standing idly in front of the Roosevelt Hotel, Rachel stared at her phone screen, checking any notifications she had recently while trying to stay warm when the temperate continued to drop. Leo was already beside her, making sure the ludicrous amount of luggage and bags, equipment, and Derek's motorcycle were all tightly strapped down for the upcoming trip. While one would say, it was a bit much to take, after several repeats of times when not taking anything cause problems, it was better to be safe than sorry.
And personally, it gave him an excuse to stay in the slightly warmer confines of the trailer.
Meanwhile, Rachel was more dressed to brave a winter storm with a massive black coat and winter cap doing their best to keep her warm.
Just then, the familiar sound echoed down the streets as a flash of amber light, and a blaring siren came around the corner and weaved its way between traffic before coming to a screeching halt just in front of the trailer. Killing the siren, Derek quickly jumped out and headed around to the back, popping the trunk.
"I know I lost track of time. I was just a bit distracting-" he tried to explain as he loaded up the pile of bags. Rachel, however, simply handed him her case and stuffed it onto the rear gurney.
"You got lucky. It was 14 minutes." She said and, without another word, hopped into the passenger seat to get the full brunt of the heater.
Feeling that the fire didn't need any more stoking, he went on helping Leo load the rest of the cases. Though while they each at a suitcase full of clothes to last for four days with a spare, the number of cargo cases Leo had on a trolley was a bit strange.
Before Derek could even ask Leo popped open one to reveal a standard proton pack surrounded by foam filler with what he could tell was probably a second one stacked below it. "Just in case. I got us two mainlines, and the other is full of three sets of each trap along with your guns and some stuff I can work on in my free time."
With a heave, the two brought up the case and placed it on the gurney. One would ask, "Why not just place the packs on the gurney that's meant to hold them?", it was simple for extra safety measures when traveling long distances, thus why all the gear was in a separate trailer when they first came here.
Though with everything loaded and Leo had to put the seat behind Derek's down to have room for his suitcase and laptop bag, Derek headed back around, hoping back into the driver seat. Giving himself a moment to warm up and get his seat belt, he adjusted himself to a comfortable position.
"So, any suggestions on the best route?"
"I'd say we take 95 and head south, he can then go onto 76 from there," Leo suggests while looking at a map from his laptop.
Rachel glanced back at him with a disgruntled look, "Are you crazy? That could take us another hour." She looked to Derek, "Just take 78 till we hit 81 then 76. It'll still take us to Pittsburgh and save us time if traffic isn't bad getting out of here."
With a quick search on his phone, Derek brought up Google Maps to Rachel's route. Giving it a moment to locate them, it plotted out their next 6 hours. Clipping it to the dashboard via a phone holder, Derek checked to make sure he was clear to pull out before easing back onto the street.
"Right, lets head home. I'm ready for that turkey."
For the next 6 hours, the trio made a somewhat decent time.
Their blunder of the day was the thing that they all agreed on Rachel jinx, as traffic getting out of the city ended up eating nearly another hour into the drive. Once they got onto Interstate 78, it was much smoother sailing.
Eventually, around 8:30, Leo offered to switch places and drive the rest of the way. Something Derek agreed with since some time ago a wannabe brake tester tried during such text to them with Derek having turned the lights and siren on them. Either thinking it was a cop of some kind, the car ended up switching lanes and racing away.
Oddly enough 30 miles ahead of them, they saw the same car pulled over by a police cruiser. Justice served, they all thought.
Once they hit Breezewood for food and fuel, it was smoothing sailing till they beat Pittsburgh for the final stretch.
It was already past 11 by the time they rolled into the town limits, and just like any place before, it was mostly empty with the occasional truck passing through. Driving through town, one could see the little forms of light snow falling in the street lights while giving a bank had its sign boldly display the ass-numbing temperature of 21 degrees. It was at this point that they had the heater working overtime and had resulted in getting their thicker coats from their cases.
The first to get dropped off was Leo, who had the most bags and probably had stuff to keep himself busy until they went back. When pulling up to his house, Derek had to back the car almost to the front door for Leo to quickly jump in and out with the stuff, greet his parents who at the same time were happy of his return and confused by his luggage, making his farewell and heading in.
Then, after hustling it across town towards the denser areas to the north where the local college was, the GMC slowly pulled a street that curved around a hill with houses lining one side and other being a park area that leads down to the campus. The place was mostly devoid of any life with some snow covering the ground with the various street lights and homes providing the only real light sources.
Soon the car came up to a woods brown split level home that had its driveway packed with vehicles, and even at this time of night, there were some sounds of entertainment going on inside. Coming to a stop at the end of the driveway with as much of the car off the road as possible, the teens looked up when they where a wave of cheers come from within.
"Seems like they're having some early fun."
"My cousins are probably in there already." Rachel mused over what they were doing but dashed that thought away.
"Yeah." Putting the car in the park, they felt it shift for a moment as they just stared up to the house. "Need any help getting it up there?"
It was an honest gesture; being on a hill anything in the back would love to want just to fall right out once the gate was opened and the mountain that the house itself sat on was the kind where you felt like you would either fall back and down the hill or if you leaned too far forward would faceplant into the ground.
"It's fine." She answered, unbuckling her belt. "Hopefully, my dad or mom will just notice when everyone else is distracted. God forbid they switch from what they're doing now to a game of 99 questions in two minutes."
"That bad, huh?"
"Half of them know and don't know I'm a ghostbuster. Hell, they might watch a lot of television, but the news is something that I'm pretty sure they deleted from their service."
"Trust me, at this point, I know how that feels." he chuckled. Waiting for a bit as he felt the weight of the vehicle shift and the gate come down with a thud.
As Rachel came around, he rolled down the window, leaning out as far as he could, "Remember to call if anything happens."
She let out a little chuckle, "Stay safe, Derek." She replied with a warm smile as he did the same with a nod. Adjusting her scarf and grip, she heads up to the house with her bag equipment case up the driveway.
Waiting till she to the front door, the moment she opened it even, he heard the big cheer come from inside when she walked through and disappeared behind the closing door. Slowly letting the window roll back up and get more of the heat circulating again in the car, Derek checked the street and moved forward away from the house to his own.
It was another half hour having to deal with the winding back roads with the occasional ice spot and a top-heavy vehicle.
For Derek, though, it was a much more relaxing feeling driving down a road he hadn't been on for months. It was strange, like the feeling you get when you got off a long day of work and finally heading home.
Soon he came to a straightaway where a row of houses with their lights casting over the road came about the corner. One by one, they passed by without a glance till before he started going down the hill, did he reach the entrance to his driveway.
The house still looked much the same as it ever did, even in the night with all the spotlights on and the additional Christmas decorations already strung up and going. All over the yard, he could see paw prints in the snow leading up to the deck and his garage that still had door covered up by plywood.
Opting to just pull up in front of his garage, Derek took a hard glance up at the house before heading out to gather his things. Given how he had the car with him, he opted to leave his equipment inside and instead just take his suitcase as in any event of an incoming call; he would already have the stuff ready and loaded.
Making sure to lock up the sound of his car beeping suddenly brought forth the sound of barking from within the house. He cracked a smile at knowing his black lab Prime was going to be very excited to see him again. He was coming up the rest of the drive and rising sidewalk to the door that had a Christmas hanging over the window he set his case down to the side and knocked four times.
The reaction to this was immediately acknowledged by the barking becoming louder, and the sound of scratching on the other side of the door came. He briefly saw a shadow move around before the door was wooshed open with a familiar welcoming face.
"Derek," Jasmine Stewart said with a big smile to her son with her arms reaching out to him.
"Hey, mom." He reached out and hugged her in return.
Since her accident, she was mostly stuck to being in the hospital for a good chunk of 2012 into parts of 2013. But back when he started Busting and getting a steady inflow of cash, they were able to start building up and even paying off a chunk of the need procedures to help her get back up and going.
Because of it, she still had a bit of trouble with breathing in times of long durations of labor, so she more or less now worked from home as an associate to her new job that thankfully was more relaxing (depending on how you looked at it) than the previous one.
When they started pulling away before they could say anything, a black blur suddenly appeared from behind Jasmine as a black lab sporting a decent level of gray under his chin came up and leaped up to Derek.
"Hey, boy! I bet you missed me, alright." Quickly having to switch from his mother to holding up his excited dog Derek used one arm to support him while using another to give him scratches.
Prime was an old dog, he was old when they got him back in 2010 when he was a bit shyer but within days (and after four attempts at giving him a suitable bath to be able to come inside) was just a new loveable ball that enjoyed his time here with their big yard and pool. Though a good chunk of time, you would see him either curled up in front of the fireplace, the end of the hallway, or behind the couch napping away the day.
He was a people's dog that just loved attention, and when the door opens would no doubt go to see who it is. And the moment Derek popped in, he was all over him.
Even so, trying to give him a couple of greeting licks that were a bit out of range, he eventually let go for Derek's arm and resorted to running around him wanting all the contact he could get. Plopping down on the deck and rolling over in which Derek gladly gave him a belly rub.
"He missed you like hell. Every time we went to bed, he would curl up on the side, you usually slept on and even brought his bed over onto yours." Jasmine chuckled at the memory. Derek even let out a little laugh knowing that it would be something Prime would do.
"Come on, boy. Let's go inside." Upon feeling the belly rubs stop and Derek moving towards the door, Prime bolted back upright, shaking away anything that was on him and headed in.
Grabbing his case inside as he pulled the door closed, he was greeted with the oh so welcomed warmth of the crackling fire that was roaring in the living room with the Christmas tree shining brightly in the space between the living and dining rooms. Prime took the route through the kitchen and dining room, resulting in his tail whacking the tree and getting some tinsel stuck on him.
Moving away from that matter, he was greeted with the familiar sight of his now 53-year-old father sitting at the end of the couch watching the TV while in the opposite section, his sister Lisa and her boyfriend Scott sat watching as well. Placing his stuff behind the couch, he looped around behind his mom between the couch and a vacant recliner that he gratefully plopped down with a satisfying sigh as it rocked back.
"So, what's New York like?" his mother asked as she got adjusted on the couch.
"Its... It's been something." Derek tiredly said as if it was a pain just speaking about it. "I know sure as hell that this turkey is gonna get burned off once I get back."
"Huh, the news sure as hell likes to cover you guys a lot." His sister gestured to the TV, "Abc likes to have you at least twice a day. Especially back in August."
Derek groaned at the mention of August. At the time of the month rolling in, it was just the same as any other day until a literal outbreak hit the upper west side for days. It was the time where they had started more into having people take shifts with both Day and Night Crews, having three people each and two others to act as the intermediate and backup.
Once they got the area clear up just a few days into September, they were tired as hell, but the state that it had left their bank accounts made it all worth it.
"Yeah, it's strange seeing my face on national television, let alone knowing a camera crew is probably following us somehow..."
Ironically enough, once he had said that the topic of 'Macy's Day Parade Ghostbusters: In or Out?' popped on with the news lady talking about the debate if they would be there or not.
"Hell, biggest parade ever. It should be fun for you."
Derek shook his head, "In it directly? Probably not. Maybe one day... As something like a security measure? Most likely. We really don't have the backing, and having to get ready for it would mean us busting ass, no joke intended, but up and be ready in the morning. I doubt anyone would be ready to get out of bed by then, let alone have to walk up and down the...route..."
It was slowly dawning to Derek that maybe being directly part of the parade was actually a lot better idea. Covering blocks worth of ground with hundreds to thousands of people lining the streets would no doubt mean they would have to break out all their stuff for this. He knew that Roger would have to be their real eyes for the whole event (if he got the permit to fly a helicopter above giant parade balloons), and that was just what they could do at the time.
"At this point... it's more like a runaway train than my dream job. First, it was all fine just operating around here, and bouncing around Pittsburgh helped much more. Going to New York I thought, okay 'Find the problem, blast it, doesn't work so try something else, blast again, celebrate, go home' kind of thing." sighing he sank further into the chair, "But now its come to the point where the business is right now both boom and bust. When we get busy, we get busy. When it's dead, it's literally as dead as the things we fight."
"You could go looking for schools. With how you made your stuff, I'm willing to beat some schools are willing to help get you a degree in engineering."
Derek had mused over the idea once in a blue moon. He really didn't care much about school, sure once the latter part of middle and most of the classes he chose in high school helped him build up to now, he wasn't one to just sit in a lecture hall learning about stuff that was just to be an excuse to make the costs so high.
Though it wasn't completely out of the realm of possibility, Rachel was soon to start online courses in March, and Jack was already into his second semester. The Smiths he could, well, barely see getting into mechanics since they already got a hell of a start, and Leo would be following close behind or even ahead of Derek.
But after that thought, he slowly shook his head, "Maybe... if our financial situation isn't crap. And hopefully, once we get the firehouse finish and close this case with the oil company, we can actually focus our attention elsewhere."
But that didn't fade away completely. If anything, it started playing in his mind like a broken record. Hell, as far as he was concerned, they had been in constant business longer than any incarnation of Ghostbusters from Day 1 of business. Though for some cases it was the fact that business was slow, then got REAL busy, big bad shows up and is blasted, activity drops to either barely anything to nothing at all.
For them, it was active right out of the gate, and even during these dead days, the activity would be bound to spike again. Yet even after all this, they oddly went backward to where despite going bigger, they were hurting. And it would only be a matter of time before the supernatural well went dry.
Maybe if they did end up closing up for good, maybe he could go back to his original idea of his project? He did succeed in making a power unit that could run his houses for years and just need the occasional maintenance and coolant refill.
It was an option in the cards that they could still play—countless investment opportunities for anyone looking for a portable cyclotron that fires a laser beam.
But now feeling that the conversation seemed to have tamper off, he took a moment to glance at his watch, wincing at how it was past midnight now.
"Whelp," he patted his knees, standing up, "That drive was a pain. I am going to bed now."
"You?" His sister asked in a mock surprise tone, "Your bedtime is usually around two am."
Grabbing his case turned to the stairs and started his way up, "Yeah, it use to be..."
Heading down the dark hallway that only had a small outlet light as a source, Derek head towards the closed second door. When he came into his room, he felt at more ease than he usually was for most of the year. His bed was neatly made with all four pillows (2 for use 2 for support) placed in their spots. His drapes were still closed, leaving the only source of light coming from his wall clock that bathed the room in a calm blue. And yet all along his dresser and headboard were his collectibles he had gotten over time from grifts to conventions.
It was comforting to be back in a familiar place where he would initially spend his 'bland' days on the computer or drawing up more 'plans' for his projects till it was 3 AM on a school night.
With a sigh, he moved to place his case away. Opting at the time to just have it up against the wall and be dealt with in the morning like it was a usual routine for him before leaving. Kicking off his boots, tossing his coat onto what was his computer desk, he pulled the blankets aside and leaned back across his bed—feeling both the warm and cold feeling go across his skin with the welcoming form that the bed had from him sleeping there for years.
When he slowly started to close, he was abruptly stopped when he felt a large mass jump onto the bed and brush fur across his arm. Looking over, he was amused by the sight of Prime making a little circle around the foot of his bed before laying down to where his front paws rested over his arm.
Looking form with his wagging tail beating against the covers, Derek reached over and gave him a nice rub between the ears.
Seeing his dog be happier from the action and inching closer to him for more, Derek happily obliged. And yet from this, since this crazy adventure started, he actually felt relaxed now.
Starting halfway through its current state, I started writing what I felt was a completely different chapter. I had initially wanted this to act as another plugin chapter that continued about their current situation and even feed more into what is to come for the group. But as I went, I started thinking about the time of year this was happening had what all the other events in the world were happening around the team.
For the most part, this was meant to be a bit more fast pace towards the end with Mike originally coming to Derek to take to him about getting the team some actual training. But I felt that would come at the last time from around chapters 8 or 10.
Strangely, writing this chapter made it feel like I was reflecting a bit more on what I hope to get this universe too. Most stories/series just focus on the direct situation, but for me, I want a world that can be seen as one that can be lived like usual despite its strange additions.
And even more odd, many who have suffered writer's block have the moment where when dealing with a big story they write it all out (to a shortened level) to understand what needs to be written out in chapters. But in doing so results in them saying, 'Well, it's technically written now. No point in continuing'.
From what I've found about this chapter and how I set up my timeline, I could build up the daily lives and interactions of the characters and world while still being on track.