Diablerie

October was a special month for Michelangelo. It always had been his favorite of the twelve, what with the changing colors of the trees in central park – so much orange!

Added to that was the atmosphere of the entire month; everyone above ground seemed so energetic and excited. Then of course there was the wonderful run of scary movies that the television stations started airing at the beginning of the month and kept playing right on through to the end.

The very best part was the last day, October 31st, Halloween. Mikey was allowed to go above ground for a couple of hours and walk around as though he belonged on the sidewalks with the rest of the New Yorkers. When he was little, Master Splinter even took him and his brothers Trick or Treating.

So when Don pulled the September sheet from the kitchen calendar, Mikey nearly squealed in excitement. Don looked at him with amusement and then jumped aside as Mikey sprang for the remote in order to check the television listings.

A week later, Casey came back to the lair with Raphael and they were both arguing loudly enough to drown out Mikey's latest horror movie.

"I'm telling ya', ya' shouldn't have driven across that grave, Raph," Casey's voice was insistent.

"Ya' shoved me off the damn road, ya' wack job. What was I supposed ta do?" Raph roared at him.

Mikey spun around on the couch, kneeling on the cushions and looking over the back to watch the pair as they walked towards him.

"I yelled at ya' about the cat so you'd get out of the way. I didn't want ta run it over," Casey said.

"What fucking cat? I never saw any cat," Raph huffed.

"That's 'cause it was black pal, and it ran straight across our paths. That ain't a good thing," Casey told him in a more subdued voice.

Mikey's eyes got bigger and he interrupted their argument to ask, "You guys drove through a cemetery and a black cat crossed your path?"

Casey looked over at him and started nodding vigorously. "Yeah, and Raph here veered off the main path and drove right across somebodies grave."

"That's seriously not good dude," Mikey breathed out heavily.

"No shit, Mikey. That's a great way ta' piss off a ghost and have it follow your ass home," Casey said.

Mikey stared hard at Raph, as though trying to see if anything else was there other than his brother.

"Maybe we should like, do some kind of cleansing ritual," Mikey offered.

Casey started to nod, but Raph punched him in the arm and they glared at each other. Then Raph turned the glare on to Mikey.

"Cut it out with the superstitious shit, Mikey. If this was July ya' wouldn't think twice about it," Raph said.

It was fully halfway through October when the first strange thing occurred.

Leo was already in the dojo when Mikey got up. Half asleep still, he wandered into the kitchen and grabbed the orange juice carton from the refrigerator, setting it on the counter so he could get a glass from the cupboard.

When he turned around, the juice was lying on its side, slowly dripping its contents onto the floor. The top, which he had not yet removed, was sitting on the counter next to the carton.

Okay, he didn't think he'd removed the top. But maybe in his still sleep befuddled head he had, and just didn't remember.

Shrugging, Mikey cleaned up the mess, happy that there was still enough in the bottom of the carton to appease his early morning thirst.

Practice was the same as usual, although they couldn't work with the bokken because the pair were missing in action. Leo looked at Mikey accusingly; his youngest brother didn't like learning to use the katana and he knew that's what Leo had planned for the day.

"I didn't take them, I swear," Mikey protested before Leo could say anything.

Leo heard the ring of truth in his voice and lowered his arms, which had immediately jumped to cover his plastron when he first discovered the loss.

"They were in here yesterday," Leo said, looking at the other two.

"Haven't seen 'em," Raph said.

Don shook his head. "Me either Leo. Maybe Master Splinter has them for some reason."

It continued like that for the rest of the day; weird things happening, like possessions getting moved or disappearing, objects rearranged, and mysterious messes that no one would own up to.

The bokken were found the following day, both of them stuffed into the exhaust pipes of Raph's shell cycle.

To say he was livid would have been the understatement of the year. No damage had been done, but that made no difference to the hot headed ninja, who immediately went after Mikey for the trick.

Mikey's denials fell on deaf ears, and Master Splinter had to jump in and save him from Raphael's wrath.

As soon as their Father's extra sensitive ears were far enough away, Raph leaned towards Mikey and whispered, "Just ya' wait laughing boy. Next time we go topside on patrol, your ass is mine."

"I didn't do it, Raph," Mikey said vehemently. "Honest." His face suddenly went from innocent puzzlement to frightened understanding. "Dude! This is totally your fault."

"What the fuck are ya' talking about?" Raph growled. "I didn't shove those bokken in my own tailpipes."

"No," Mikey's voice lowered even further, "You brought a ghost home from the cemetery, Raph. That's the only explanation. It's pissed at you and that's why it screwed with your bike."

Raph glanced around for Master Splinter, and then gave Mikey a shove.

"Get off of the ghost shit, Mikey. I think ya' did it, and when I have proof, I'm gonna pound your ass, sensei or no sensei."

That evening after dinner, the family learned what true rage could look like, and it wasn't the color red either. It was purple.

Don's lab door slammed open with such force it shook the walls. A livid Donatello stood in the doorway, papers clutched in one hand and the other balled into a fist.

"This is beyond humorous!" he shouted in fury, shaking the papers at the other members of his family.

Leo had been sitting on the couch with Mikey, watching the start of yet another horror movie, and he rose to turn and look at Don. Mikey jumped up too, but not out of curiosity as much as self-preservation. Don was stalking towards him, mouth set in a grim line and brown eyes blazing liquid fire.

"I haven't been in your lab in days, Don," Mikey quickly said, his hands up and palms showing, pushing out towards his brother in the hopes of keeping him away.

"My notes were scattered all over the floor," Don bit out each word, dipping them in acid before letting them through his stiff lips.

Leo stepped in front of him and drew his attention. "When was the last time you were in the lab Don?"

"Before dinner," Don answered, pulling his eyes off of Mikey. "Everything was neatly piled and in a specific order, held down with a paperweight. It took me hours to sort these into some sort of cohesive compilation and now I'm not even sure if I have all of the pages."

Raph walked out of the dojo and stood watching the exchange, a smirk on his lips as he saw Don's sharp gaze fall once more onto Mikey.

"I didn't do it," Mikey asserted. "Damn, dude, don't you think my pranks are a little more sophisticated than that by now?"

"Yeah, like sticking bokken in my motorcycle," Raph said, throwing gasoline on Don's fire.

"I didn't do that either," Mikey whined. "I want my pranks to be funny, not self-mutilating."

"He's right guys," Leo said in Mikey's defense. "When has one of his pranks ever done real damage to anything, and when has he ever pulled one in your lab Don? He knows that's completely off limits."

Half convinced by Leo's logic, Don stopped staring at Mike and asked, "Then can somebody tell me what the shell is going on around here?"

"It's a ghost," Mikey breathed out, his eyes huge.

"Oh for fuck's sake," Raph snapped, throwing his arms up in exasperation and then letting them down to noisily strike his thighs.

"There are no such things as ghosts," Leo half turned, taking Mikey into his field of vision.

"How do you know?" Mikey asked. "Everything was fine until Raph drove his shell cycle over that grave. Now look what's happening; stuff is messed up, moved around or just plain gone. Klunk's favorite toy has been missing for days."

Raph snorted. "It's probably under the stove."

"Is not," Mikey said quickly. "Don't you think I looked under there and pretty much everywhere else? It's gone dude."

Raph just stared at his youngest brother. For the first time he started to believe that Mikey hadn't been the one to play with his shell cycle. But that just left Leo or Don, and no way would either of them do that. Besides, whoever was screwing with him had decided to add messing with Don to his list, and that was a seriously bad idea.

Unless Don had done it to himself. Raph studied his brother through narrowed eyes. The anger seemed real enough, but Don was pretty deep and Raph thought he might be a fairly convincing actor if he really wanted to be. The genius wasn't above pulling a prank or two either; though his tended to be more technical, like making the lights in your bedroom dance every time you moved.

But then again, Don would know exactly how to do something to Raph's motorcycle without actually causing any real damage. Raph continued to stare at him, looking for some sign that would give the brainiac away.

"We need to calm down and try to come up with a rational explanation for what's been happening," Leo urged. Turning his head to Don he said, "Klunk could have gotten into the lab and jumped up on your desk, knocking the paperweight off of those papers and scattering them on the floor."

Facing Mikey once more, Leo said, "Klunk's toy was probably carted off by Klunk himself. In a couple of days, it will appear again."

"That's all real reasonable, Leo," Raph said sarcastically. "Go ahead and explain the bokken in my exhaust pipes. How'd that happen, sonic vibrations?"

Mikey said, "Ghosts," and began nodding his head.

"I don't know Raph," Leo said, choosing to ignore the sarcasm. "There is an explanation and we'll find it. Maybe one of us is sleepwalking, Mikey used to do that when we were little."

"Uh, uh. Don't put it on me again," Mikey said. "I haven't walked in my sleep since I was ten."

"I'm not making an accusation Michelangelo," Leo told him. "I just don't want to see us tearing into each other. None of us knows why these things are happening, but I am certainly not going to automatically assume we have ghosts."

"I know one way to find out," Don said slowly.

The other three looked at him, and saw the flash in his eyes that meant he'd had an idea.

"I have extra cameras left over from our raid on Saki's headquarters. I was going to place them in the sewer tunnels closest to the lair in order to beef up our security, but I can put them inside the lair for a week or two; just until we can find out what's happening around here."

"Good, that's good Don," Leo said. "Tell us what to do and we'll help you."

Raph stepped closer to them, his eyes fixed suspiciously on Don. "And just who is gonna check those cameras, Donatello? Suppose the guy who's been pulling all this shit is the one who is sitting behind the monitors?"

Don's shoulders went rigid and the venom crept back into his voice as he said, "Are you accusing me now Raph?"

Raph shrugged with exaggerated nonchalance, "Don't know, 'm just saying."

Before Don could snap back with the razor sharp retort that Leo saw dancing on his lips, the eldest interrupted.

"We'll put the monitor in Master Splinter's room, and he can be in charge of watching the cameras. Agreed?"

The other three found that plan acceptable, and they went about installing several cameras throughout the lair. Nothing at all happened for the rest of that night, nor the following day. On the morning after that, their sensei bid them all to enter his room after practice.

Once they were silently kneeling before him, he rolled the monitor over on the portable stand that had been placed in his room.

"I wish to show you something that was recorded in the early morning hours while you were all asleep. Please bear with me a moment while I ask this machine to play the recording," Master Splinter said.

Don started to get up, but Master Splinter patted the air in his direction and Don slid back down to his knees.

The monitor sprang to life and Master Splinter stepped aside. The four brothers found themselves staring at a picture recorded on the camera that had been aimed at the kitchen. Nothing at all happened for a full minute, and then suddenly one of the kitchen chairs began to slide back of its own accord.

Mikey's gasp was loud in the silent room, and Don leaned far forward, straining his eyes at the screen. The chair continued to move until it was nearly five feet from the table, and then it stopped.

When nothing else happened for a full minute, Don thought that was the end of it. But then one of the upper kitchen cabinets opened and a box of cereal practically leaped out of it, landing with a soft thud onto the floor near the ambulatory chair.

That was the end of the happenings on film. Master Splinter turned the monitor off and then studied his sons.

"While I am pleased that this seems to indicate our strange happenings are not being perpetrated by one of you, I am concerned by what we have seen here. Perhaps these manifestations are being caused by the crystals embedded within the walls of the lair?" Master Splinter's question was directed at Donatello.

"I really doubt that Master Splinter. They are primarily a power source; they don't actually create anything on their own," Don explained.

"Then it appears that we have a mystery," Master Splinter said. "One I am sure you will be able to solve."

Dismissed from their sensei's presence, the four brothers gathered together in the kitchen. Master Splinter had replaced the chair and the cereal, and Don immediately examined both of them along with the cabinet.

"Well, Don?" Leo asked.

Don shook his head. "Nothing. There's just nothing here to indicate how the things on that tape could have happened."

Mikey opened his mouth but Raph slapped a hand over it. "Don't even say it bro'. I mean it; I'm tired of hearing about ghosts."

Mikey pulled his head away from Raph's hand and said, "Then you guys explain what we just saw."

Don was rubbing his chin, a look of concentration on his face. "Since a lot of the activity is centered in the kitchen, I'm going to set up a more sophisticated surveillance system. A lot of the equipment I used to track Sydney underground can be used here as well. It will at least give us some more information."

"Geez Don, ya' don't have ta look so happy about it," Raph said.

His brother grinned sheepishly. "I feel like a ghost hunter."

"We ain't got any ghosts," Raph told him, and then muttered, "Techno geek."

"Uh, Donny, can you set some of that stuff in my room too? 'Cause I seriously doubt if I can sleep in there anyway. In fact, I may just move into April's place for a while," Mikey said nervously.

"No one is moving anywhere," Leo said. "Don, let us help you set up what you want in here. Whatever is happening, we need answers."

With a curt nod, Don left the kitchen. The other three stood and stared at each other.

"It ain't a ghost," Raph said, answering the look Mikey was directing towards him.

"You're just in denial," Mikey responded. "You're just like the guy in the movie who keeps saying 'there's no ghost, there's no ghost, there's no ghost' just before the ghost jumps out and eats him!"

"Mikey, that's enough," Leo ordered, seeing Raph's shoulder twitch.

It was actually rather funny how Mikey could manage to get under Raph's skin, but Leo didn't really feel like watching the two of them brawl.

Leo did let out a surprised laugh when Don returned. His genius brother looked like he had every piece of equipment he owned strapped to his body.

Still chuckling, Leo said, "Don, you could have asked for help with carrying that stuff."

"Nah, that's okay, Leo," Don said as he began divesting himself of the gear. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to use anyway."

"Damn Donny, what is all this stuff?" Raph asked, picking up a device and staring at it. "This looks like a Geiger counter."

"That's because it is a Geiger counter," Don said, as he started to set up a tripod. "I also brought a thermal imaging camera, a couple of infrared motion sensors and a wireless zone thermometer. Once I have these bad boys set up, no entity of any sort will be able to elude us."

"Yeah, and we won't be able to move around in the kitchen either," Raph said sarcastically.

"I don't care," Mikey said from his spot in the doorway. "I'm eating takeout until somebody figures out what's in our kitchen. In fact, Chinese sounds really good right now. Preferably from somewhere in China."

"Mikey," Leo said, "why don't you go let Master Splinter know what we're doing. I'd rather he didn't just stumble across this stuff when he comes in for tea."

"I'd love to," Mikey agreed, and raced off with alacrity.

Raph met Leo's eyes and they both burst out laughing.

Don got his equipment set up and tested, and then they waited, and waited, and waited. It seemed as though once everything was in place to monitor the kitchen, the mischief stopped.

A handful of days passed by rather uneventfully, and Leo was about to tell Don to go ahead and remove all of the equipment. That was just before Don let out a surprised shout as he checked his thermal camera recording from the prior evening.

"Guys, you need to come see this!" Don exclaimed.

His brothers gathered around him in his lab as he played the recording for them. The darkened kitchen suddenly seemed to glow and then something drifted across the screen. It was light and flowing, diaphanous while vaguely human in shape.

The figure moved from one end of the kitchen to the other, disappearing through the back wall.

"I told you so!" Mikey yowled loudly as the figure vanished.

"Damn Mikey," Raph growled, clapping a hand to the side of his head. "Deafen me why don't ya'?"

Mikey was practically dancing around in his excitement. "You guys didn't wanna believe me, but there it is. You saw it, that's a ghost. A ghost I tell you! It's Raph's ghost!"

"Mikey, that makes no sense," Don told him calmly.

"I don't mean the ghost of Raph, duh. I mean the ghost Raph brought home!" Mikey contended.

"Something does appear to be there guys," Leo acknowledged. "After all, we have seen some fairly strange things in our lives."

"Uh, huh. What he said," Mikey agreed.

"It ain't a ghost," Raph said, steadfast. "I don't care what the nut ball says. Something's changed in the kitchen is all, maybe the lights are messed up and they're flickering. I don't know, but it sure ain't a ghost."

"Keep sayin' that Raph. In fact, go in the kitchen and say that. Maybe it'll follow you to your room and I can have a real lunch," Mikey said.

"Ahh!" Raph snarled, lifting a hand to smack Mikey, who danced nimbly away from him.

"Not in my lab," Don said absentmindedly. He was watching the recording again.

"What do you think Don?" Leo asked.

"It does seem to be an apparition," Don answered. Freezing the image, Don pointed at the screen and said, "Do you see those points there and there? Could be hands."

"Darn right they're hands," Mikey said.

"So what do we do about it?" Leo wanted to know.

Don turned away from the monitor and shrugged. "Do we have to do something?"

"What?" Mikey let out a high pitched yelp. "Of course we have to do something. It's a ghost."

"I'm just saying that nothing untoward has occurred in the last five days. Whatever this is, it seems to have become accustomed to our space. If it isn't messing with things anymore, then maybe we should just let it alone," Don said.

"I can't live with a ghost. How can I live with a ghost?" Mikey asked.

"Put a sock in it Mikey," Raph snapped.

Ignoring them, Leo asked, "Do you really think that's a viable option, Donny?"

"I don't see why not. Live and let live, um well, you know what I mean," Don said.

"All right," Leo stated decisively. "That's done then. Let's get all your equipment gathered up and put the kitchen back together."

Mikey glowered at them as his brothers left the lab. "You're gonna regret this. Ghosts may take a break, but they don't stop."

Unfortunately, Michelangelo was correct. When they entered the kitchen four mornings later, they were greeted by an incredible sight.

Flour had been strewn about the entirety of the kitchen, from ceiling to floor. Every visible surface was dusted with the white powder, and not a single footprint was to be seen.

"I don't understand," Don said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Nothing has changed. We haven't done anything different. This looks like he was angry about something."

Raph cleared his throat, his voice low as he said, "Maybe he doesn't really wanna be here."

"Now you guys are starting to catch on," Mikey said. "You three don't watch nearly enough horror movies. Do you think the people that produce them just make all that stuff up? They get those stories from real life, and one thing for sure is that a discontented ghost stays discontented."

"Maybe it's time for us to do a little more research," Leo said as he surveyed the mess.

"We don't need research, we need an exorcist," Mikey told them. "We need a blessing, or a medium, or a spiritual intervention. We need to cart this ghosts butt back to the cemetery where Raph found him."

"It's worth a try I suppose," Don said. "We'd need a specialist."

"And just where the shell are we supposed ta find one of those people? Ya' think any of them make house calls ta the sewers?" Raph asked caustically.

"Master Splinter is spiritual," Leo said.

His brothers turned to look at him. He was squatting, looking across the floor at the mess and he lifted his eyes to theirs.

"Being spiritual doesn't mean he can deal with this, Leo," Don said. "I don't know a lot about the subject, but I do remember reading that if you aren't careful, you can make things worse."

"He's right Leo," Mikey said in agreement. "If you open a door to usher the ghost out, you're also opening it to let other things in. You have to be really careful how that door gets opened bro'."

"What choice do we have?" Leo asked, standing up and brushing his hands together.

Raph's head turned as his eyes swept across the kitchen. "Not much of one, by the looks of things."

"I'll research online for information if you'll talk to Master Splinter Leo," Don said.

"Okay, let's get started." Leo glanced at Mikey and said, "Get the vacuum and try to clean up as much of this as you can. Raph can dust off the countertops. I'll be back to help as soon as I speak to Master Splinter."

"Oh, dude, that means I have to go in the kitchen," Mikey protested.

Raph clapped a strong hand on Mikey's shoulder, squeezing hard enough to make his younger brother wince.

"If ya' see the ghost, just suck him up into the vacuum, bro'," Raph advised.

"It'd be nice if that would work," Mikey muttered as he pulled away from Raph and trudged off to fetch the vacuum cleaner.

The kitchen got cleaned up eventually, though Mikey was jumpy and skittish. Normally, Raph would have had a great time teasing him, but he wasn't really in the mood. Having some sort of entity living in your house took the fun out of things.

Master Splinter had agreed to attempt a cleansing, provided Donatello could give him enough information to make him comfortable with the idea. He informed his sons that he would need at least two days to prepare, and they settled on the evening of the last day of the month as the date to tackle their ghost.

That proved to be acceptable to everyone except Mikey.

"Dudes, that's Halloween!" Mikey whined piteously. "He's gonna be at his strongest then. It'll take all night to get rid of him."

"What's the matter goof ball, afraid you're gonna miss out on some candy?" Raph asked.

"Ha, ha, ha," Mikey retorted. "It's just my favorite night of the year and it's totally gonna be blown by some oversized apparition that you brought home. You should be the one doing the cleansing with Master Splinter, not the rest of us."

"However it got here, Mikey," Leo interrupted, "it is here in our house, and we are going to get rid of it together."

"Hmph," Mikey pouted, arms crossed. "You owe me big time Raph."

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever." Raph waved a dismissive hand in his direction and went back to his punching bag.

Don and Leo spent several hours with Master Splinter, going over all of the things Don had learned from surfing the web. Since the kitchen seemed to be the center of most of the activity, that would be where they would base their operation.

On Halloween night, Raph and a grumbling Mikey carted the table and chairs out of the kitchen, while Don set up his equipment once again. Leo helped bring in a batch of candles and a mat for Master Splinter to kneel upon.

Mikey was the last one to appear in the kitchen when it was time to begin. He was carrying his battery powered night light.

Setting it on the mat in front of their sensei, he told the others, "Amateurs. When that ghost comes in, all of those candles are gonna get blown out, and we'll all be stuck here in the dark."

"Thank you Michelangelo," Master Splinter told him. "May we now begin?"

Leo glanced over at Don, who finished powering up his equipment and lifted his thumb.

"Yes sensei," Leo answered, signaling his brothers to kneel on the mat with their Father.

Forming a loose circle, the brothers waited as Master Splinter began to meditate.

Mikey's eyes were as big as saucers and his head swiveled constantly. If something was going to make an appearance, he wanted to see it before it saw him.

Leo watched his youngest brother become more agitated with each passing moment, and finally leaned forward silently to gently tap Mikey's knee. When Mike looked over, Leo smiled reassuringly at him. Mikey took a deep breath and managed a wan smile in return.

Raph's muscles bunched at every small noise; he was ready to leap up with a seconds notice. Each false alarm found him willing his muscles to relax, only to begin the cycle again with the next sound.

Don transferred his attention between two locations; Master Splinter's face, and the monitor attached to his equipment. He wasn't in the least bit nervous, but he was excited enough to be slightly fidgety.

After several minutes, Leo began to notice that a low hum was issuing from deep in Master Splinter's throat. He had never heard his sensei make any type of noise while meditating, and the sound drew his attention.

Within seconds a cool breeze blew into the room, chilling the brothers and extinguishing their candles.

"Told you so," Mikey whispered.

Now the only illumination in the room was from the small battery powered nightlight, and that sent a weird glow over their Father's face and hands, while the rest of him was in shadows. The dim light was barely powerful enough for them to see each other's faces; the only other visible glow came from the monitor on Don's camera.

Don's eyes were now entirely focused on his monitor. Mikey's head turned as well, following his brother's line of sight to the one object in the room he knew would show the specter if and when it entered the room.

Raph was now staring at their Father, having also heard the hum. He glanced at Leo, but couldn't catch the leader's eyes, as they were focused on Master Splinter. The hum began to get louder, although their sensei seemed to be completely unaware of it.

Mikey noticed his feet were getting really cold and pulled his eyes from the monitor in order to look down at them. That's when he saw the fog.

"Uh, Leo," he said in a low voice.

"What Mikey," Leo asked without removing his eyes from Master Splinter.

"Look down dude," Mikey instructed.

Leo looked at him, and then down. The fog was getting thicker, and its chill started to crawl into his bones.

"Oh damn, Leo," Raph muttered, looking all around them. The fog was enveloping the kitchen, crawling up the cabinets slowly, rolling in lazy tendrils barely visible in the dim light.

"Shell," Don said quietly. "I'm losing visibility on the camera."

"That's not all we're losing visibility on," Mikey said in a shaky voice. "This fog is killing our only light source."

Master Splinter suddenly began to speak, the words completely unrecognizable to any of them. Mikey screeched at the sound, and Raph's hands went automatically to the handles of his sai.

"Master Splinter?" Leo asked softly. Getting no reply, he tried again, "Master Splinter, can you hear me?"

Their father suddenly moaned loudly and a strange white glow began to shine from behind him. Simultaneously, the monitor on the camera went out; a giant wave of fog rolled into the room, and the illumination from the night light disappeared.

A ghostly form took shape around their Father, its central core swallowing his small body. The apparition seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then it dove straight towards Raphael.

"No!" Mikey shouted and lunged to the side, slamming into Raph and rolling his brother out of the way. The ghost swept past them, missing its target, and then hovered above the mat.

Leo slowly stood up, never taking his eyes off of the ghost.

"Raph, get out of the kitchen," Leo ordered in his command voice.

"I ain't running away, Leo," Raph told him, getting up from the ground with Mikey at his side.

Leo's katanas were out. "This thing has control of Master Splinter, but he may have it under his control also. If so, it can't chase you and you are who it wants. Get out of the kitchen so we can fight it."

Don crawled across the mat to sit close to their Father. "Keep its attention Leo. I'm going to try to join Master Splinter and boost his power over that thing."

Before Leo could answer, a loud booming sound crashed around them, and the apparition winked out.

In total darkness, the brothers remained perfectly still.

"Anybody know what's going on?" Mikey asked in a barely audible voice.

His question was answered by a loud laugh, followed by another, and then another.

"What the shell?" Raph snapped.

Suddenly the lights went on, and the four brothers spun to see Master Splinter, April and Casey standing in the doorway; all three laughing hysterically.

"Best prank ever," Casey choked out, holding his stomach.

"You guys should see yourselves, your eyes are as big as plates," April said.

"M-Master Splinter? What's going on?" Leo asked, sliding his katanas back into their sheaths.

"I believe it is called a trick Leonardo," their Father answered, regaining his composure.

"This whole, elaborate set-up was a Halloween prank?" Don asked, rising from the mat.

"Yes my son," Master Splinter told him, grinning broadly. "Not simply a trick, but a way to teach you to remember that as a team, you must work as one. I have noticed a tendency in the last few months for each of you to, I believe the term is, 'do your own thing'. While not necessarily bad, it has come to my notice that you have all begun to ignore one another, and that I cannot have."

"But how did ya' pull this off?" Raph wanted to know.

Master Splinter nodded at April and Casey. "With the assistance of Miss O'Neil and Casey of course. Miss O'Neil provided the technical skill for the more elaborate parts of the trick, while Casey orchestrated the set-up."

"There was no black cat at that cemetery, was there?" Raph asked, his eyes narrowed.

"Nah, that was just part of the gag so I'd have an excuse to shove you over towards some graves," Casey said, laughing.

"But the bokken, and the messes, and Donny's paperwork; Casey didn't do those things," Mikey said.

"I am still quite capable of stealth and speed, Michelangelo," Master Splinter told his youngest.

"Master Splinter, we were all suspicious of each other at one point. How did you know we could get past that?" Leo asked.

"Because I know you, Leonardo. You would not have left one of your brothers to take the blame for these occurrences without proof, and you would recognize that there was truth to the vehement denials. That was another reason why I needed to have the four of you pull together over a common mystery. It is necessary that you are able to read one another well enough to understand those deepest of emotions."

"But the chair, and the cereal box and . . . and the flour," Don sputtered.

"Fishing wire, magnets and bellows," April said with a wide smile.

Don ran the palm of his hand over his face. "I suppose the fog was dry ice?" he asked. When April nodded, Don said, "Oh man, so simple."

"Not everything requires a complicated answer Donatello. I hope you have learned from this as well," Master Splinter said.

"I sure have," Don replied, looking chagrined.

"So that means there's no ghost, right?" Mikey asked, immediately perking up.

"Yes, Michelangelo. There is no ghost," his Father said.

"Yippee! It's Halloween still, and I'm going topside," Mikey yelled.

Racing for the door, the entire two weeks' worth of frights forgotten, Mikey called back, "Anybody going with?"

Leo started to smile, looking at Don, and then Raph.

"Oh shell, we might as well keep this family bonding shit going," Raph said.

"Language, Raphael," Master Splinter admonished his sons retreating back.

"Sorry sensei," Raph's automatic response drifted back to him, and Master Splinter smiled.

His children were older now and the lessons might have to be more elaborate, but the Father was happy to know that he still had something he could teach his sons. One of those things was that their Master Splinter had a good sense of humor.