Ghostbusters: The Return

It was a hot June morning in New York City; the sun was beating down heating up not only the exterior temperatures but also the short fused tempers of everybody rushing off to work. People were running all through the middle of town catching cabs, getting on buses, heading for the subways, running through the crosswalks and up the sidewalks. One stuffy businessman in particular was running late and decided to get a cab. Looking out to the streets he saw one yellow cab parked with no occupant in the backseat.

"Taxi!" he called as he headed for it.

Jumping into the back seat he told the driver to take him to 55th Street. The driver, who could not be seen from the backseat, sat behind the wheel smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper. The red turban he wore was the only thing sticking over the top of the driver's seat.

"Anywhere in particular on the 55th you want to go?" he asked.

That was when the businessman noticed something didn't seem right about his driver. He glanced at the hack license and saw that this cab belonged currently to a woman.

"Uh, no," he replied, "Just get me to 55th Street and drop me off."

She turned around to look back at him. She didn't resemble her hack license at all and barely looked old enough to drive. Not bothering to take the cigarette out of her mouth she said, "You got it."

On that note she turned on the ignition and without so much a glance at the traffic behind them, went tearing down the street, easily exceeding the given speed limit on the street signs.

"Have you been driving long?" the nervous businessman asked as he watched the scenery rushing by outside the car windows.

"I've had enough time to perfect my technique," she answered.

A large truck swerved in front of the cab and cut them off. The woman rolled down the window and stuck her head out, "HEY WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, KING OF THE ROAD?!"

Pulling her head back in, she removed her cigarette and threw it out and stepped on the gas until they were doing 60 miles per hour through 66th Street. They came to a sudden halt at a traffic jam and she did an illegal U-turn and headed back for 64th Street.

"Now where are we going?" the man asked.

She told him, "You couldn't get through that jam with a pack of dynamite, we're going to take a detour through Amsterdam Avenue."

He looked at the hack license again. "How do you pronounce your last name?" he asked.

"Venk-man," the driver answered, "My name is Pauline Venkman and I'm you cab driver for the day."

The car sped up to 70 miles an hour and the very nervous man in the backseat started to silently pray. Finally they reached 55th Street and the car came to a neat stop and the man fell out of the back and kissed the ground he landed on.

"Now that just leaves the fare," Pauline told him, "$17.50."

The man reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and threw some bills at her. "KEEP THE CHANGE YOU LOONEY! WHERE'D YOU LEARN TO DRIVE?"

"Why New York City of course, the land of opportunities," she answered.

Screaming, the man headed off to his job, and Pauline sorted the bills and placed them with the others she'd made from driving people around so far that day. Already she had collected $150 and it was only 9 in the morning.

"And people say there's no money in the taxi business anymore," she commented.

She turned the key in the ignition and was about to take off again when she noticed something coming up the street. A blur resembling a light blue transparent hotrod with three young occupants came speeding up 55th street and came directly at the taxi. In fact it would have collided into the cab except for the fact that it passed through the car and kept on heading up the street.

Pauline looked back at the quickly disappearing sight, and unaffected by what had just happened, said in a deadpan tone, "Lead foots," and hurried off to find another sucker to drive through town.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, there rested a block and a half away from the rest of human civilization, Stantz Manor, a three story white elephant which rested on a large piece of property. The house was the only part of the property that resembled class anymore as there were three cars piled up in the driveway and the grass was getting as tall as tumbleweeds.

Off in one of the rooms of the house, Ray sat behind a desk looking over papers while Peter sat opposite him, rambling on.

"When we mortgaged the house to start our business you were so worried you were going to lose the house," Peter reminded him, "Well you didn't, and now you have this dump you probably wish you had lost because they're just stringing you along now with all these excessive bills and taxes, with their hearts bleeding all over the place about how some half assed organization is benefiting from our raised cost of living expenses."

"Peter, I'm trying to get this," Ray told him as he kept his eyes on the bills.

"A fine thing, our wives walk out on us for their annual vacation away from their husbands, our kids come home today, your daughter hasn't been home since New Year's and she's going to find you hunched over the desk, it'll be like the last time she was here," Peter said.

"I still wish you would reconsider my idea," Ray told him, finally looking up, "If you think about it, it makes sense."

"To you, Ray, but what do you know about logic?" Peter asked, "You're the guy who gave New York City a 100 foot tall marshmallow man."

"I was just thinking," he said, "We've been retired now for quite a few years. Doesn't it seem strange that after so long, New York City just seemed to quiet down?"

"Well New York is the city that never sleeps and you know people always say 'I'll get all the sleep I need when I'm dead'? Maybe they all went someplace where it's quiet. Besides, people don't want ghosts caught anymore; they want them explained, like dinosaurs and great white sharks."

"Maybe but I still wonder if we ought to look into it," Ray said.

"We're not Ghostbusters anymore," Peter told him, "We agreed on that when the public quit needing us. They're not calling to complain about eggs frying on the counter or some green onion head terrorizing everybody in a hotel, or a mink coat coming alive and running off, so why should we go looking for trouble?"

"I know you're right, but it's still strange," Ray replied.

Neither said a word and it was in that silence that they heard the oncoming roar of the sirens to the Ectomobile.

"Winston!" they simultaneously said as they all but jumped out of their chairs.

Ray headed out the door while Peter stayed behind, opened the door to the dumbwaiter and hollered up it, "Hey Egon! Get down here, the girls are home!"

They reached the front door and ran out to the porch and saw the Ecto-2 pull up and stop. The doors flew open, Winston got out on the driver's side and out of the backseat came his daughter, Jewell who was built like an Amazon, nearly as tall as her father and with muscles sticking out just about everywhere. Next was Egon's daughter, Benjamina, who was four-eyed, tall and lanky as was her father in his youth. At the end of the line was Ray's daughter, Raynelle, shorter than the other two but still bearing strong resemblance to her father.

Peter immediately noticed in a headcount they were one short.

"I guess Pauline didn't want to be embarrassed in front of her friends by being picked up in the company car," he said.

"I stopped by the taxi company to get her," Winston said, "They said she had already left, so she must be on her way here."

"Oh really? Well good then…I'll go alert Slimer," Peter turned around and headed into the house.

Up the sidewalk and into the house the girls walked on their father's arms, discussing what they had been up to lately. Jewell had just returned from training as a Navy SEAL but unfortunately had not done as well as was necessary to be declared one. Raynelle was on vacation from her second year at MIT's school of science. And Benjamina was on break from her job at the observatory in the next town.

"Uncle Winston," Benjamina said as they entered the living room, "Did they really say Pauline left for the day?"

"I checked with the cab company," Winston told the others, quietly so Peter wouldn't hear them, "And guess who's not working there anymore."

"Oh no," Benjamina said.

"Again?" Jewell asked.

"What for this time?" Raynelle wanted to know.

"Apparently she's managed to pick up 23 traffic violations since she started," Winston said.

"That's not so bad," Ray said, "This is New York City, anybody can pick up a few tickets."

"In the first and only week?" Winston replied, "But I checked to see what the final straw was. They said there was eyewitness account that she got into a collision with another car."

"Oh boy," Ray said.

"That's not all of it…when asked what the damages were, they said there were none. No smashed fenders, no broken lights, no dents, no scratches, the cab was in the same second grade condition it had already been."

"I'm confused," Benjamina said, "Why would they fire her then if there's no damage?"

"How could she hit another car and not have damage is a better question," Egon said.

"I found some people who had been on 55th Street when it happened, they said the other car was some kind of old hotrod, and the two were on the same path and the second car seemed to go through the cab and just keep on going."

"What!?" the girls asked.

Ray and Egon looked at each other.

"What do you think?" Ray asked.

"Things have been quiet for a while, perhaps too quiet," Egon said, "Something might be building up again."

"But after so long?" Ray asked, "I was just telling Peter how inexplicably calm things have been in town regarding any sign of paranormal phenomena…why has it been quiet for so long?"

"Does it matter?" Jewell asked, "It seems the bears have come out of hibernation again."

"Something about it all still doesn't calculate," Egon said, "They fired her for getting into a collision that left no damage?"

"Uh no, actually she got fired because when the manager confronted her about the wreck, she beat the hell out of him," Winston explained.

"That doesn't make sense either," Benjamina said, "She's always had a temper but she wouldn't beat on anybody. Why do you think she would do that?"

"For that matter, do you think she's on her way here?" Raynelle asked.

"I sincerely hope so," Winston said, "You know how she drives when she's angry, and she can stay angry a long time."

"I agree," Ray responded, "A psychogenically disturbed time bomb accelerating around the city is the last thing we need to go chasing after."

"What he said," Jewell added, "But what if something is wrong with her?"

"You know Pauline," Egon said, "She'll never agree to let us examine her but if she does arrive, we can monitor her behavior during her stay and see if anything seems particularly disturbing."

"Well just don't let Peter catch on," Ray told him, "You know how he would act, he'd never agree to it either. He's been very moody lately. I don't get it."

"Maybe he's pregnant," Jewell commented.

"That's impossible," Raynelle told her.

"Alright," Jewell reconsidered, "Maybe he's menopausal."

Benjamina blinked and her eyes widened, "How is that possible?"

"You tell me," Jewell said, "You're the scientist."

Pauline parked her motorcycle in the yard and went up to the front door. Looking around the yard she saw it looked about the same as when she was there at New Year's, except now there was grass that was coming up near her knees. She stepped on the porch and rang the bell and waited for somebody to answer. There were three cars piled in the driveway and the Ectomobile was at the curb so she knew the others had to already be there.

The door opened and she turned around and came face to face with her father. Not having met since the beginning of the year, both were overwhelmed to see the other again.

"Come on in," he said, "What took you so long to get here? You know Winston was coming down to get everybody."

"I know," she replied as they stepped in and got reacquainted with everybody else before she continued, "But I got fired today and I didn't feel like waiting around listening to the manager yelling at me."

"You got fired?" he asked, "From a cab company? That's one of the most common jobs in the world, any boob could do it."

"I did it before I went to college," Ray said.

"See what I mean?" Peter said, "How did you get fired?"

"Ah who knows? Nothing I've done since I got there has made the boss happy, it's like joining the army…"

"And how would you know what that's like?" Jewell asked, "You were never in the army."

"Sure I was, for about a day," she answered.

"Wait a minute," Ray said, "I thought when you left in January you said you were going to college, what happened?"

"I quit after the first week," she said, "Then I went to join the army…they wouldn't take me and told me to get out because I was too ugly to look at. So I tried the navy and they wouldn't have me either because they said I didn't pass the physical. After that I tried the Air Force…they saw how I drove and said they wouldn't trust me with a plane if it was filled with nitro and I was dive bombing the Koreans. So then I tried the Marines, they wouldn't take me either on account of to fit in there you have to be some sort of mathematical genius of which I am not."

"You can say that again," Raynelle commented.

"After that," Pauline added, "I volunteered for the Coast Guard, they wouldn't take me either on account of they travel in local and international waters and they figured if we capsized I'd sink to the bottom like a tub of cement. That commanding officer was one to talk, he was so fat if he fell in he could float forever on his stomach. Anyway, after that I started work for the cab company, and today they fired me, for what? Okay, I got a few tickets, who doesn't in this city? All I know is that I'm dropping an accountant off at 55th Street so he can get to work, and the next thing I know I'm being fired for doing absolutely nothing."

"Nothing?" Winston repeated, wondering what was going on, "Are you sure?"

"I don't know what he was bellyaching about, I come in early, I stay late, I forgo my lunch breaks because that's when everybody and his brother is trying to get a ride…I do everything for that ungrateful baboon and this is how he repays me by throwing me out of the company when I've done nothing wrong?"

Winston, Ray and Egon carefully glanced at each other so Peter wouldn't notice. They knew something wasn't adding up. Naturally they gave her the benefit of the doubt; she probably didn't want her father to know she had KO'ed her boss but it still didn't add up that she would insist she hadn't done anything to get fired. There was something about her story that didn't make any sense and they couldn't even see through the holes in it.

At the 63rd Precinct, Sergeant Stacker, a big bellied cop in his 50s was having quite a time answering the phones. New York had always been full of crackpots and rum pots but now people were calling him up to report things unimaginable. His most recent call had been from a man claiming his fridge was spewing out flames. The phone rang again and he answered.

"63rd Precinct…sir…let me get this straight, you say that a park bench bit you and ran away?" he rolled his eyes, "You don't need the police, you need Betty Ford!"

Officer Ramis, a slightly younger cop who got along with Sergeant Stacker about as well as the Honeymooners, stepped into the office with a stack of files under one arm.

"Rough night, Artie?" he asked.

"I'm about to go crazy from all these jokers calling in," he said, "It's ridiculous, one guy says a bench bit him, another says his refrigerator is imitating a fire breathing dragon. A woman called half an hour ago who said she set a pound of bacon on her counter to thaw and it started frying itself through the wrapper. The public's out of its mind."

"Boy, sounds weird alright," the young officer replied, "You'd expect to get calls like that on April Fool's Day."

The phone rang again and he picked up the receiver and though he dreaded it, answered, "63rd Precinct." It was a familiar voice on the other end, "Murray! Where have you been? I need you to report back to the station, things are going nutty here…Murray…Murray…you WHAT!?"

"What is it?" Officer Ramis asked.

The sergeant put his hand over the mouthpiece on the receiver and answered, "It's Murray all excited, he says that he stopped a woman for jaywalking and she said she'd run all the way from Lakehurst."

"In Jersey?"

"Yeah, he says she told him she wanted to get as far away as possible from the explosion."

"What explosion?"

"What explosion, Murray?" he asked into the phone. A minute passed and he seemed to grow sick, he put his hand over the receiver and answered, "The Hindenburg."

"The what!?"

"Murray," he said into the phone, "I want you to report back here right now. I think it's time we discussed a little vacation for you, I think you need a rest…I…Murray! Oh no, oh no," the sergeant dropped the receiver and started crying.

"What's the matter?" Officer Ramis asked.

"He said a park bench just bit him and ran away!"