Waverly Pace was north of Greenwich Village and just off the business district of the metropolis that was New York City. A small slice of the people who called the island of Manhattan home, the neighborhood of shops and restaurants included many who had emigrated from their native countries looking for a home and even those who had arrived searching for success. The coffee shop was frequented by the myriad type of career types on their way to their work-obsessed lives while the nearby dress shop found itself the hangout for several young girls. The pet store fascinated many of the pre-teen crowd with its snakes and exotic creatures for sale. Down and around the corner, the Waverly Station Sandwich Shop was the closest place for quick lunches outside the Jewish delicatessen and the Italian restaurant in the former location of the Chinese eatery. There was a bit of a secret inside the innocuous retro sandwich shop of which the general public was unaware. It was no secret that the oldest son of the owners, Justin Russo, was an up-standing and moral character of some intelligence, often tempered by the impatience and indolent behavior of his younger sister, Alex. Their younger brother, Max, was quite nearly the quintessential pre-teen boy from any family, a bit active, a bit sarcastic and even a side of grating annoyance, but what the three Russo youths learned from their father outside their regular schooling was not exactly public knowledge.
"I don't know why I had to be punished…." Justin stood outside the sandwich shop with his sister dispensing sandwich shop coupons to passing pedestrians and tourists. "I had nothing to do with the volcano in the kitchen."
"Neither did I…." Alex rolled her eyes as she passed out flyers. "It was just a coincidence that I happened to be reading about volcanoes for school."
"You were supposed to build a volcano for school!" Justin snapped at her. "Not conjure one!"
"Build… conjure…." Alex wavered and meandered in the gray area between right and wrong. "I don't see the difference." She passed a flyer to a mom with two girls. Justin glared at her and ground his teeth together. He was so tired of giving her chances. Her attitude toward him was beyond lousy; it bordered on self-respect.
"Well, here's a difference for you…" Justin passed out his last flyer. "I'm done. I passed out my last flyer."
"How'd you do that?"
"I passed them out two at a time." He mugged cockily toward her. "Who's the smart one?"
A crowd of younger boys on skateboards sailed past them and tossed at them paper airplanes created out of dispensed fliers. Alex reacted complacent to the flurry of colored flyers and coupons whirling and flying around her as a flock of birds. Justin took it a bit more personally and closed his eyes in humiliating embarrassment. One flyer had lodged in his collar in it's descent as the young hooligans dashed around the corner. He looked back at them irked at their disrespect and looked at the colorful cacophony of folded debris at his feet.
"It looks like they are." Alex enjoyed her brother's dismay and soul-crushing experience. She grinned and started passing out the flyers two at a time to passing people. Justin meanwhile remained bound by his character and personal self-respect and started collecting the paper airplanes to unfold them. His father would have him redistribute them, and that was what he was going to do. Flattening them again against the front of his sweater, he sighed, glanced to his sister greeting and charming guys passing by her and tried meeting new pedestrians before Alex could get a flyer into their hands. It was turning into a competition tempered by sibling rivalry. Brother and sister locked competing eyes again as one lady bolted across the road to avoid the two Russo kids. Coming down toward Justin was a man slowly wandering down the street. He wasn't even looking up. He was clad in brown khakis and a white dress shirt with his black no-lace sneakers scuffing across the concrete toward them. Alex looked at Justin, and Justin tried to block her to finish first again. Alex made a face of determination and circled round her brother pushing out two colored fliers.
"Here you go sir!"
"I saw him first!"
"No, you didn't, I did!"
"Wait…" The depressed figure looked up from his malaise. "You two can see me?"
"Well, yeah…" Alex turned forward an attitude. "In fact, I saw you first!"
"No, I did!" Justin handed forward a flier, but his hand went straight through the chest of the forlorn figure before them. Alex stepped back in shock. Justin waved his hand through the man's body. It was as if he wasn't there. His hand was a bit chilled to the touch, but he didn't feel anything as his hand passed through the stranger's body.
"Justin, what did you do?" Alex's voice whispered as she clung a bit scared by her brother.
"I don't know!" He whispered back to her afraid of what he had done. "Dad!!" The two of them threw up their fliers in unison and stormed the dining area of their family sandwich shop. What did they do? How much trouble were they in this time? Their mother stepped out of their way from helping a customer and their brother Max looked up from his schoolwork at a booth under the windows. Jerry Russo accidentally squirted ketchup into his face upon being surprised at their onslaught. Justin and Alex started crowding each other and talking over the other trying to avoid the blame of having harmed a complete stranger. Theresa Russo looked with confused distress at her panicked kids and wondered what had affected them to get them to react like this.
"Hold it!" Jerry Russo waved his hands trying to make sense of his two kids rambling conversations toward him over each other. "I heard the words: chest, wave and nothing… What's going on again?"
"Dad…" Justin spoke ahead of Alex. "There's a guy out there. My hand went through him!" Justin lowered his voice that a dining patron sitting at the counter would not hear him.
"It's true…" Alex whispered as well. "No hole, nothing… it's as if he wasn't there." She explained while overly waving her arms for effect. Her mother and Max slipped into the private family conversation to learn what was happening.
"What did this guy look like?" Theresa asked.
"He was dressed in a white shirt, brown pants and black shoes." Justin described the guy.
"You mean that guy over there?" Max looked up and pointed him out to his father. Their heads turned toward the wandering pedestrian entering the sandwich shop. He forced an honest grin and waved his hand trying to be noticed then looked down over the dining sandwich shop patron near him. The customer didn't see him hovering in his presence either.
"Where is he?" Theresa looked around the room. "I don't see him."
"He's standing in the middle of the room, mom." Alex tried to be kind and waved back to their guest but she was worried her wizard status was busted before it began.
"Honey," Theresa looked to her daughter. "There is no one standing n the middle of the room."
"You can't see him?" Jerry looked to his wife and kids. "He's right there."
"Dad, why can we see him and no one else can?" Justin asked the question at the top of their heads.
"I don't know." Jerry pushed between his wife and Alex to find and discover the answer. Their invisible but material patron had walked around two customers and had not been noticed, even once reading over a female diner's shoulder at her newspaper. Wiping his pals over the front of his apron, Jerry sidled around beaming at his customers and strided toward his mysterious guest.
"Hi… I'm Jerry Russo…" He looked back briefly to his kids then back to his immaterial patron. "Welcome to my sandwich shop. How can I help you?"
"I guess I scared your kids a bit, but then… they kind of surprised me too." His guest reached to shake hands with Jerry, but their hands passed through each other. "I'm Nick Logan. I worked at the World Trade Towers the day of the collapse. I think I'm a ghost."
"Well, that explains it!" Jerry calmed and reverted to his jovial friendly self. "He's just a ghost!" The customers looked at him not realizing nor seeing the spirit among them. Realizing the odd looks, the embarrassed father stepped away and back to his confused family.
"A ghost?" Theresa reacted with a portion of distress. "Here?"
"Well, why can't mom or anyone else see him?" Alex asked amongst her family grouped at the end of the counter. Nick continued wandering through and around people, chairs and tables in his first haunting attempt.
"Because it's a gift that wizards, even former wizards, have." Jerry explained.
"You mean like psychics?" Justin sat down on a stool.
"Exactly!" Jerry continued. "Wizards resonate on the same level as psychics and mediums, but there's nothing to be afraid of either. There are ghosts all around all the time. They're just people who have died, but have not passed over."
"This is like so cool!" Max was grinning at the idea.
"Oh, Jerry…." Theresa nervously started wiping down the sandwich making area. "I don't like this. I lived with my grandmother for a short time in a former convent that was haunted by a ghostly nun. I've had bad experiences with this stuff." Her Spanish accent cast an enchanting vibe over her words.
"Hey!" Max introduced himself to Nick. "I'm Max! Can you do any tricks?" One of the customers saw Max talking to the empty space.
"I was a CPA, not a magician." He strolled over to the Russo family to meet them, taking the time to reach to a stool and gradually acquire enough substance to sit in it. Even drawing upon the energies from the people in the room, he could stop passing through objects and actually sit down without slipping through to the ground. "I am really glad to meet people who can actually see me. It's really depressing when you don't have anyone who can see you… or talk to you"
"That's so sad…" Alex leaned backward out of sight.
"You know, dad…." Justin looked up with an idea. "I was watching Ghost Hunters last night… Did you know that haunted restaurants and hotels do really good? People love ghosts; he could be great for business."
"He could at that, but we can't ask him to…."
"I'll do it." Nick looked up from looking at the sandwich makings.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, here…" Theresa spoke out at this line of discussion. "Did anyone not hear me? I can stand the magic, transmutations, spells, incantations and conjuring, but I have to draw the line at a ghost."
"But, mom…" The kids all reacted at once. "He's got no one to talk to." Justin spoke up. "He could be like a live-in caretaker or something. Someone to help Max or Alex with their homework when you can't and someone to help watch the shop when we're not here."
"He could help keep Alex out of trouble." Jerry tried to sway the vote.
"Yeah, he could like…" Alex did a double take. "Wait, I don't think I like where this is going."
"Well…" Theresa looked at the empty seat slightly shifting with the ghost in it. "I guess…"
"This is like so cool!" Max was jumping around excited to have a haunted sandwich shop. "I can't wait till Halloween gets here! It's like I got another uncle or something!"
"I'll let him stay a while." Jerry looked toward their guest from the afterlife. "But truthfully, we should be helping Nick pass over." Justin and Max became excited at their new novelty. Learning magic from their father was one thing, but actually having a ghost around to talk to and ask questions was going to be a lot of fun. Alex started fretting. What this ghost was going to be was another ing over her shoulder. Justin ran to get his book on haunted houses and Max started thinking up questions. Theresa sighed and turned to pour the customer at the end of the counter more tea.
"Hey, Jerry," Nick gestured the father aside. "Is that the wife? Looking good!" They tried doing a high-five for the sexy wife.
"I know!!" Jerry laughed at his luck to marry out of his league.
"What did he say? What did he say?" Theresa confronted her husband.
"He says you're nice." Jerry downplayed the comment.