The Noir Style
It was one of those lazy nights after work. I'm Danny Fenton a.k.a. Danny Phantom, a very successful ghost hunter thanks to a trick I have up my sleeve. I'm half ghost or halfa as they know me in the Ghost Zone. I've been half ghost since I was a freshman in high school because of an accident in my parent's lab. Over the years I became the city protector, a hero and when money became an issue, I opened a ghost hunting office together with my best friend: Tucker Foley.
That fateful night, Tucker decided to leave before closing time to catch up with some paper work at home which gave him an excuse to spend some quality time with his three years old son, Cole. Cole's mother never married Tucker and disappeared before her child turned two. Tucker was sad, which led him to be even closer to his son and the two of them now were inseparable. I gotta admit I've liked being called Uncle Danny since Cole learned how to say it.
But that still made me slightly angry that Tucker got to go home to his son leaving me to pay a visit to Walker's Ghost Prison to deliver the criminals of the day. Lucky, the Fenton Portal to the Ghost Zone now lies in my living room, hidden behind a painting. I got the idea to hide it there from my arch enemy Vlad Masters. I don't have much space in my dusty and dark apartment.
I collected all the papers and descriptions of the next jobs I had lined up for the week so I could read them at home, after a hot bath to sooth my sore muscles, my intentions were to sit on the couch, drink some hot soup that tasted bitter every time. I'm a lousy cook. I depend on pizzas and noodles to survive.
When I closed the office and locked the door I realized how dark it was outside. The streetlights weren't on and just the crescent moon was there to make me see where I was going to. There wasn't a single person on the street, like expected when I left the office past midnight just for the pleasure to not have to stay home and fight the insomnia.
The atmosphere felt creepy, almost dangerous and I had enough experience to know when it's the perfect mood for a ghost to show up, so I stayed alert and kept my eyes open to any suspicious shadow on my way home.
It wasn't my eyes that were useful to catch something strange, but my well trained ears that captured the sound of high heels clinking on the pavement with steady and rushed steps right behind me. I knew how to recognize a real lady walking, having dealt with them for quite a few years.
I finally reached a street where the lights were on, even if it was still dark and dangerous. I turned around the corner and stood still waiting for the lady to catch up with me. If she turned the street, I'd be a hundred percent sure she was following me.
Just as I anticipated, she turned around the corner and as soon as she saw me standing there, with my hands on my jacket pockets and waiting for her, she stopped abruptly, still hid in the shadows so I couldn't see more than her face's outline.
She was wearing a winter coat and a hat that made me oddly remember a scene from Casablanca where Ingrid Bergman always wore coats and big hats. Those hats… curse them for coming back into the fashion business in the last season, because of that hat I couldn't see who my stalker was and I couldn't have been prepared for a blast of the past that it neatly covered.
"I don't appreciate people following me, lady." I said in a cold voice, expecting her to suddenly rip off the act and jump on me like a ghost would.
"Not even if it's an old friend?" The lady's voice caught me off guard. While I was expecting a ghost attack which I would have to handle without even getting paid for, I was in a loss of words when I recognized her. I would recognize her even if she had been gone for fifty years and I was lucky it had only been five.
And then she stepped into the light and I had a perfect clear sight of her face. She looked like she hadn't aged a single day since she left. She was still stunning beautiful with her black hair now with elegant waves and a slim figure that could make a guy drop on his knees just to watch her pass by.
Her flawless face was a little more tanned then I remembered and her lips looked a tad fuller with cappuccino colored lipstick instead of the purple ones I had seen her wear my whole life. It wasn't her manicured fingernails, or the diamonds on her ears that caught my attention, but the odd look on her amethyst eyes. She had always had a confident and smarty-pants look, but that night all I saw was a vulnerable girl who tried to hide how desperate she was behind a glance of indifference.
"Samantha Manson…" I whispered to myself, still dazzled from her sudden apparition.
"I'm not 'Sam' to you anymore?" She asked in a slow tone. Coming from her, I knew it was a tease, but she showed more insecurity in that small question than any desire to tick me off like the old good times.
"You don't look like my old Sam." I replied. She lowered her eyes to the pavement when I said that and I felt like kicking my own guts for being harsh when she had been nothing but polite. It was when I realized I was still hurt that she had left me. All those years had passed by and I couldn't get over it even if I had trained myself to believe in the opposite. "I know a very good coffee shop near here that stays open twenty four hours a day. Would you care to join me?"
I wasn't just trying to apologize, without sinking low enough to actually voice an apology; I was also trying to get her to eat something. I hadn't seen her in years, but I knew her enough to realize when she's about to pass out of starvation.
"I'd be glad to." She replied softly waiting for me to guide her to the coffee shop. I thought about offering her my hand to break the icy politeness that revolved around us, but I just turned around and started walking, one step ahead of her. I wasn't ready to break the politeness just yet; I wasn't ready to see my best friend showing up on that pretty face that soon.
She followed me quietly, but her steps weren't as strong as they were five minutes before. Her heels didn't echo around the street announcing a lady walking by. Now her steps were quiet, like a kid who had just gotten grounded.
I am a petty person. I know how to hold a grudge and I will never forget that cold winter night when she told me she was leaving. It had been on her birthday and I had gotten her the biggest teddy bear I could manage and Tucker had just gotten her a cereal bar. I was ready to tell her about my plans to open the Ghost Hunting Office when she told me the news.
The next week she left on a plane to Africa to do volunteer work for UN, helping civil war refugees to live as decently as they could manage. I knew what she was doing was a beautiful thing, something she had always wanted to do and be respected for it, but I couldn't help but feel like she had chosen a bunch of strange kids over our years of friendship. I felt betrayed, but she never knew that.
Five years can change someone. I just hoped she hadn't realized how cranky I had become.
We didn't exchange any more words until we were seated at the coffee shop, by the window, so we had something to look at when staring in the eyes would become uncomfortable between us.
The waitress, who disgustingly chewed gum with her mouth open, approached our table taking out a small notebook to write down our orders. I didn't let Samantha even look at the menu and ordered for her.
"Bring a vegetarian sandwich and a light coke for the kid here." I said and she looked at me slightly surprised that I had called her a kid. "I just want a simple black coffee and make it strong, please." It was going to be a long night.
"How is Tucker?" She asked quietly once the waitress had left. She beautifully reached up and took off her hat, placing it on top of her purse. I watched mesmerized as her hair fell over her shoulders, reminding me of a peaceful waterfall design. Her wavy hair matched her style much better than when she wore it straight.
"He's at his apartment right now. He left the Office sooner to spend time with Cole." I said without even realizing that maybe Tucker didn't want her to find out about his life through me. But it was already too late to fix it.
"Who is Cole?" She asked quietly, playing with the salt container over the table.
"His three years old." I answered and warned her with a dry tone that I wasn't willing to answer any more questions about Tucker's life. She caught my unspoken message, like she always did and silence once more fell over our heads and just like I had predicted, I couldn't stare at her eyes anymore.
I watched her through the window's glass reflection and I saw her doing the same. I could see her discreetly biting her lower lip and smiled to myself on my mind. She had always done that since we met as kids. She was nervous about something and I needed to find out why she had returned to Amity Park and why she was following me on the streets.
The waitress brought our orders and I was glad to have some more time to watch her as she ate her sandwich slowly and delicately even if she was about to pass out of hungriness. I sipped my coffee for about ten minutes until she was done and I finished it with one big gulp.
It was time to stop the act and go straight to business.
"Why are you here?" I asked looking straight into her eyes so deep that I knew she couldn't avoid a truthful answer. Whenever I looked at her like that I could read her thoughts and all the emotions troubling her soul like she was an open book.
I knew she had no reason to come back to Amity Park. Her parents had passed away six months before she left, in a tragic plane crash. She had said she was going to Africa to get over their deaths and pursuit her dream. She had no more living relatives in our town or anywhere else in the world so the only reason why she decided to return was to see old friends and exorcize old demons.
"I wanted to see if you still were in the ghost hunting business." She said casually, leaning back on the chair, trying to show me she was comfortable even if she really wasn't. "You should work on a website. It would save me the trouble of leaving Italy just to find out the answer."
"I thought you were still in Africa." I knew she was playing mind games with me. She wouldn't cross the world just out of curiosity to find out if I still worked on the business she abandoned; just to see if I still was the town hero.
"I moved to Venice three years ago." She replied simply, making it hard for me to distinguish anything else on her tone. She had learned how to shut down from my mind reading. She had learned how to keep me in the dark and become Mr. Clueless again.
"So why did you need to know if I still was a ghost hunter?" I asked straightly, deciding that it was time to come clear about our intentions, even if I wasn't ready to come clear about our emotions.
"I want to hire you." She said simply, taking her coke can and quietly sipping what was left of the drink.
"I thought you were perfectly capable of taking care of yourself when it came to ghosts." I retorted and she snorted in a ladylike manner, rolling her eyes with humor. That reaction got deep under my skin, making me really furious that she could react like that. She was the one who left with three Fenton Bazooka's on her luggage; she never had a problem handling ghosts.
"My weapons were spent long ago. I ran out of ammunitions three months after I arrived in Africa and they became useless. I haven't fought a ghost in a long time and believe me, if there was another way I wouldn't be here asking your help." For someone who had been quiet and shy the whole night, that could be considered a rant. My weaker side realized how much I had missed her daring voice.
"Is this ghost a criminal?" I sighed; my head started hurting and I realized how much I needed sleep. "If he hasn't stolen, broken or hurt anything or anyone I can't capture him. I have a deal with Walker now. I just catch criminals."
"Do I look like I would trouble myself to look for you if it wasn't a criminal?" She asked me sincerely and I could see that she had been hurt from my lack on interest in that case. I didn't want her to hire me, I didn't need her to hire me; I had enough expensive cases on my office's drawer so I wouldn't have to do it for money. But I gave up my internal battle and I agreed to help her even before I could voice my decisions aloud. While my heart was weak when it came about that girl, my body was stubborn and resisted her challenge.
"Sam…" I sighed heavily once more and the fact that I had called her by the old nickname made her visibly relax. I pinched the bridge of my nose and closed my eyes so I wouldn't look at her. It made me relax a great deal. "You vanished from my life five years ago; you didn't even apply to college. You promised you would write, but I never received any letter and neither did Tucker. Not even a phone call to tell me you were alive. I thought you had died in the middle of some other country's war, raped or crippled."
"Danny…" When she spoke my name with such sad tenderness, I realized she hadn't said my name until that moment. No matter how much I fought to avoid remembrances of her, I had missed my best friend like hell. All the scars had been reopened now that I could see her alive and well right in front of my eyes, but it hurt to hear that she had just showed up because she was having ghost problems.
"I was worried sick and now you come back just because you need my help to catch a stupid ghost." I said. I should have stopped myself when I had the chance, but as soon as I spoke those words to her, she understood I was hurt and wasn't willing to forgive her that easily. I had never let a woman know my feelings since she went away and that had made me feel strong and unpredictable. But just to see her walking back into my life, looking more dashing than ever, just brought back all the weakness I thought I had gotten rid of.
"I'm sorry." She shook her head coldly, standing up. I panicked when I realized I had driven her away with my attitude, but I made sure my face remained calm and serene to her to make it difficult for her to read me. "I should have thought better before coming down here to ask such a thing. I won't bother you anymore, Mr. Fenton." She picked her purse and placed a twenty dollars bill on the table before I could stop her. "I believe it's enough for both our orders."
Without another word, without even a goodbye, I saw my childhood friend assume the pose of a woman and walk out of the coffee shop and out of my life for good.
Or so I had thought at that moment.
While I was panicking about never seeing those childish amethyst eyes again, the waitress came over my table and picked the bill. I stood up and left through the sliding glass door, leaving her to keep the change.
I realized that fall night was much colder than it was before I entered the place. I was left there, wandering in the dark streets alone, thinking if I should tell Tucker that Sam had just showed up and I had driven her away again – and for good – with my cowardice and stubborn act. But that had been for the best, I tried to convince myself.
I heard the ghosts I had captured that day laughing at me and my pathetic situation from inside the thermos, which I was carrying inside my bag with the office papers. Even they knew I was stupid and there was no point trying to hide the truth from them. There were Skulker, Spectra, Johnny 13 and Kitty inside the thermos and all of them knew my history with Samantha Manson.
Without realizing I took the path to the port. I enjoy going there at the night. I can't see anything so I just hear the sounds of crickets and sound of the waves crashing had always got a very relaxing effect on me. I tried to not think about what had just happened, I tried to make it as a nightmare and soon I would wake up on my bed ready for day of work.
But I would have no time to sleep and let alone have nightmares from that moment on. I heard someone running not very far away from me. The sound of someone running desperately on high heels made my heart skip a beat; I thought of the possibility of that person being Sam. That she was in trouble.
How could I let a woman walk by herself in a dark night like that? I knew how dangerous Amity Park had become over the years and I wasn't thinking about ghosts at the moment.
I ran towards the noise, following it until I could see the outline of a person. Indeed, it was a woman, and she was wearing a long coat and a big hat. It had to be Sam. I ran in her direction, but she blindly stepped closer to the edge of the wooden bridge.
I stopped for a moment to see where she had gone to and I was about to call her name when I saw her shielding herself with her arms and a dark shadow floating above her. The shadow hit her in the chest and I saw as she screamed and fell backwards on the ocean. In a millisecond there, I thought of something I had never even bothered thinking before: I had never seen Sam swimming. Did she even know how to swim?
In the next moment I had transformed in my ghost half and was already under the water looking for her. Whoever her attacker was, I could deal with him later. I wouldn't risk her getting drowned. I wouldn't let her die like that, not when she had just walked back into my life.
I found her several feet under, and she was sinking fast with her heavy lather coat bringing her down. I rushed towards her and quickly grabbed her around her waist. I'm not a fast swimmer and I never cursed myself for my lousy skills until that moment. I broke into the surface what seemed hours later. The icy cold water made my limbs go numb even in my ghost form.
The waves crashed dangerously around us and I didn't want to risk Sam getting in even more danger, so I just flew us out of the water and when I set my foot back on stable ground, I put her down to make sure she was okay.
She wasn't okay; she wasn't even breathing and had probably swallowed too much water. I cursed the old cliché of CPR an unconscious beautiful woman, but to my relief – or great disappointment – she coughed and took deep breaths before I could even touch her.
I let go of my breathing and I didn't even know I was holding it. She laid there unconscious, but breathing and I was relieved that she was alive.
I had never hated someone as much as I hated whoever pushed her in the water. I had a feeling it had been the ghost she had asked me to capture, but I wouldn't jump to conclusions. First things first, she started shivering and her lips were turning blue. I picked her up in her soaked clothes and carried her all the way to my messy apartment.
It was a good thing I had forgotten to turn the heater off because I needed her to warm up quick. I laid her soaked figure on the couch and removed her shoes. I had always been a gentleman and never undressed a woman without her consent, but I was going to make an exception for Sam that night.
I opened her lather coat and was mostly surprised to see a golden necklace sparking with a large diamond hanging in between her breasts. Its shine felt almost paranormal to me, but I shook the feeling off. I was tired, I could be imagining things and on the ghost hunting business taking a wrong path or clue could cost someone's life. I decided to just let her sleep that night and think about the diamond the next day.
When I got rid of her coat I was taken aback because I saw what she wore underneath it. It was just undergarments, no shirt, no skirt; just black lacy bra and panties with black pantyhose that stopped in the middle of her thighs. She was pale in contrast with her clothes and there were bruises on all over her body.
She wouldn't be happy when she woke up and found herself half naked, with her bruises exposed, but I didn't have any other option. So I walked to my bedroom and got a blanket and a white sheet for her. I covered her, not very carefully because I didn't want any physical contact at the moment.
Somehow I drifted off to sleep by her side, sitting on a chair, while I read my office papers. I had no idea what kind of trouble I was getting myself into.
Maybe I slept three or four hours, but I was jerked awake by Sam's sudden intake of breath. I had a really light sleep and when she sat up on the couch I opened my eyes to see a very frightened girl staring blindly at the empty wall in front of her, holding tightly on the jewel around her neck. I watched her carefully for a whole minute until she slowly remembered the previous events and calmed down.
She looked around and her eyes found mine. For a second there I caught a look very close to tears and a few drops ready to slide down her face, but as soon as she saw me those tears dried up and her vulnerable look once again was replaced by cold and indifference.
"Did you follow me?" She asked quietly.
"Not intentionally, but now I'm glad I did. I saw everything." I replied, standing up and walking to the kitchen. I decided to work on a hot chocolate to warm both of us and that would also be an excuse to leave her alone with her privacy to choose to put the wet coat back on or just lay around in her humid underwear.
I heard her moving around the living room and approaching the kitchen. I turned around just in time to see her wrapped around the white sheet I had covered her with, walking slowly towards me with an awkward look.
"Do you have any clothes I could borrow until mine are dry?" She asked quietly and I nodded. I left the kitchen to grab a pair of pajama pants and a loose shirt. Even now that I towered her almost a foot I knew she would think the clothes fit well. She had this small addiction on wearing my shirts when we were teens and I admit I thought it looked good on her.
She changed on the bathroom and when she came out I was ready to start the interrogation. She saw it coming when she opened the door and found me sitting on the kitchen table, holding two cups of chocolate and looking at her very seriously.
She sighed and sat down. It was obvious that she didn't want me to find out about whatever trouble she was having like that. No matter how hard she tried to hide it before, her expressionless face wouldn't fool me again.
"So…" I started quietly, watching her she sat down in front of me with a heavy look. She was very tired and I could see the dark circles under her eyes, but I couldn't let her just go to sleep and torture myself several more hours without a straight answer. I had to know everything. I carefully watched her as she gave me an opening to stare by lowering her face to the table surface. It was like she gave me permission to look as much as I wanted. And so I did.
From her beautiful humid hair, I let my eyes wander down her face, now completely free of makeup but still as beautiful as ever. I let myself study her diamond earrings that obviously matched her diamond necklace and down even more until I caught a sight on her finger. She was wearing a wedding ring.
I felt something strange, almost close to disappointment deep inside my stomach. Sam was married! I always thought she'd avoid commitment to her dying day. She didn't invite me to the wedding. I was going to use a few interrogation tricks on her using the memories of our friendship, but knowing she was married and she didn't tell me anything was like she had put an end on that friendship.
"I will help you." I mumbled tiredly. "You're clearly in danger." I continued and I saw her eyes light up with a slight hope. "First you must give me information about him. Do you know who he is?" I watched her quietly as she lowered her eyes once again and nodded, as if she was ashamed of her answer. "Who is he?" I pressed on, impatiently and in the next second I regretted asking that.
Ha! New story!