One of the Boys
The dark-haired, balding man patted my hand fondly and looked back at the door, through which Eric had just stomped out of angrily. "You may as well get used to that. It's the kind of resentment that your ability is going to provoke in some people," said my professor.
I was confused. It seemed to me that Eric had left because Dr. Venkman had kept electrocuting him, not out of jealousy. "Do you think I have it, Dr. Venkman?"
It was referring to extra sensory perception. I had come to Columbia to study psychology, and had ended up minoring in parapsychology. So, here I was, submitting myself to the Zener test for the stipend of five bucks, at the hand of this wacko-Dr. Peter Venkman.
The professor looked into my eyes deeply and earnestly. "You're no fluke, Jennifer."
I took my hand out of his. Dr. Venkman was a nice guy-no, I take that back; he was kind of a creep-but he was getting just a little too close.
Suddenly, the door flew open again. I half-expected it to be Eric, demanding his five bucks, but instead it was a cheerful-looking, sort of roly-poly guy, about the same age as Dr. Venkman. I recognized him as Dr. Stantz, another professor of parapsychology. "This is it!" he exclaimed excitedly. "This is definitely it!"
He started bustling around the small storeroom. "Did those UV lenses for the video camera come in yet? And that blank tape, I need it, the one we erased yesterday." He began pawing through some boxes and gathering random equipment.
Dr. Venkman turned back to me, smiling. "Will you excuse me for a second?"
I nodded and my professor got up and walked over to the other man. "I'm right in the middle of something, Ray!" he said, slapping Dr. Stantz upside the head. He smiled quickly at me then turned back to his partner. "Uh, I need more time with this subject. Could you come back in an hour, hour and a half?"
"Peter," said Stantz. "At one-forty PM, at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, ten people witnessed a free-floating, full torso, vaporous apparition! It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks of some poor librarian!" His voice barely contained his excitement.
"I'm very excited, I'm very pleased," said Venkman. The dull in his voice drastically contrasted Stantz's enthusiasm. "I want you to get right down there, check it out, and get back to me."
Stantz shook his head. "No, no, Peter, you're coming with us on this one. Spengler went down there. He took PKE valences, went right off the top of the scale; buried the needle. We're close on this one, I can feel it!"
He walked out of the room, leaving Venkman to mutter to himself. Then, he sighed and walked back over to me. "I have to go now, Jennifer. But I'd like to work with you some more. Perhaps you could come back this evening, say at…" his voice trailed off.
"Eight o'clock?" I suggested.
Venkman's jaw dropped in astonishment. "I was just going to say 'eight o'clock.' You are a legitimate phenomenon!"
I blushed, not quite sure how to take that.
"That guy is a total cougar," said Alex, my best friend, as I recapped my afternoon for him. Alex is really handsome, with his almost jet-black hair and his dark green eyes. I've kinda got a little crush on him.
"Oh, come on. I just think that's an act. Like he can't help being a flirt, you know?" I said.
He shook his head. "I don't know, Jen. The guy sounds like a sexual predator waiting to happen."
I laughed. "You're paranoid. Why are you so protective of me?"
"Cause you're so innocent and naïve. Guys like this Venkman like to take advantage of that."
"Alex, I'm a big girl. I can handle myself. And besides, I bet he's a really nice guy underneath." I retorted.
Alex shook his head. "So what was up with his friend?"
I chuckled. "Dr. Stantz? He's just like that. He really loves his job."
Alex rolled his eyes. "Nobody likes their job, Jennifer. Work is work."
"I thought you liked being assistant curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," I said.
He shrugged. "That's not a job, that's a position."
I rolled my eyes. "Cause there's a big difference. Look, I gotta go. I have pick up some groceries and meet Dr. Venkman at the university."
"I can't believe you actually believe in that ESPN crap," said Alex.
"Well, whatever it is, it's still bull."
I pretended I hadn't heard that as I got up and put on my coat. "You know, Dr. Venkman really believes I could be psychic."
"That's just a line. I wouldn't take anything this guy says without a grain of salt. Just be careful, okay?"
I smiled. I knew Alex was worried about me, and it touched me. He isn't really a negative guy like he seems, he's just skeptical. He's really sweet once you get to know him.
After the tests Dr. Venkman had run on me that day, I was feeling a little giddy. What if I really was psychic? I wondered what my parents would've said about my participation in them if they had known. My mother probably wouldn't have been pleased. I remember all too well what she had said when I had told where I planned to go to college and what I was studying. She thought I was just being ridiculous. All she had ever expected from me was an honorable son-in-law and some grandkids. My father hadn't cared. He was too busy running his business.
My older brother Theodore would've supported me. Growing up, he was the only one who ever understood me. He felt the same way I did about our parent, that Mom was a social-climbing snob and my dad was an uncaring corporate jerk. After high school, he joined the military and died in combat. I was alone.
The military had been Theo's means of escape from our parents. College was mine.
I left for the university around 7:30. I walked inside the parapsychology building, Weaver Hall, and stepped up the receptionist. "Hello? I'm here to see Dr. Peter Venkman."
The receptionist didn't even look up. "He's not here."
"Oh. Do you know where he is?" I asked confusedly. He had said eight, right? Maybe he had meant eight in the morning?
"He's been fired. The whole teaching board was replaced," said the receptionist, obviously bored.
"What? Why?" I was shocked.
She looked up at me. "Do I look like Dean Yeager?"
Why are receptionists always rude? I bit my tongue and asked politely, "Well, do you know where I might him?"
She rolled her eyes. "He left this forwarding address for some old firehouse." She handed me a slip of paper with the address on. The receptionist turned backed to her typing. I took this as her way of saying, "Now leave me the hell alone."
I walked outside and read the address. "Hook and Ladder Number 8, corner of North Moore and Varick."
The receptionist hadn't been kidding. The firehouse was indeed old. Hell, it was a shack. What would Dr. Venkman be doing here?
I opened the door and stuck my head inside. The inside was just how you'd expect it to be: dusty and filled with junk. This place was a wreck. I let myself in. "Hello?" I called out. "Anybody here?"
I heard voices coming from upstairs. "Oh boy! A customer already!" an excited voice shouted.
"I highly doubt it's a customer, Raymond." This unfamiliar voice was much deep and placid, with sort of a nasal drawl. Then I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
"Oh, Jennifer, I didn't expect to see you," said Dr. Venkman as he came down. "How did you know where to find us?"
"They gave me an address at the university…what are you doing here, exactly?" I asked. Then suddenly, Dr. Stantz came sliding down the pole.
"Who is it, Pete?" he exclaimed excitedly. Then he saw me and said, "Oh, hi. I'm Raymond Stantz."
I nodded. "I know. I'm one of your students, Dr. Stantz."
"More like you were," he sighed. "Well, what brings you down here, Miss…"
"I'm Jennifer Colby." I stuck out my hand. Stantz shook it warmly. "I came because Dr. Venkman was running some tests on me…what is this place, anyway?" I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.
"It's an old firehouse," said that unfamiliar voice, which was now coming down the stairs. I turned and saw that the voice belonged a third tall man, with brown hair that stood up on end, a big nose, and glasses. You know the type. He was kind of cute, in a nerdy sort of way. If I was correct, it was Dr. Spengler, the third of the ex-parapsychology professors.
"Well, I knew that. I meant what are you all doing here?" I asked.
"Ray and Egon want to open a 'ghost extermination' business here," said Venkman, rolling his eyes.
I was confused. I looked back at Dr. Stantz. "You want to hunt ghosts? Is that even possible?"
He nodded. "Sure. It's very simple, really. You just have to…" He struggled to find the right words. "Well, I guess it's not all that simple after all," he laughed.
"We're going to catch the ghosts and contain them," said Dr. Spengler. "It's complicated to explain."
"Oh…" My voice trailed off. "Well, what are you going to call this business of yours?"
"We haven't come up with a name yet," said Stantz.
"I wanted to call it 'Ecto-Eliminators, Incorporated'," said Spengler.
Dr. Venkman shook his head. "No, no, no. We need a cool name like 'Phantom Cops' or something."
"I was thinking of 'Ghostsmashers'," added Stantz.
"Hmm," I thought. "I think you're on the right track, but something's not quite right...what about Ghostbusters?"
The scientists were quiet for a moment. "Well, I love it," said Venkman.
Stantz nodded. "Me too."
"That could definitely work," agreed Spengler.
I smiled, pleased that the guys had like my idea. "Could you maybe use some help?"
The guys looked at each other, then back at me. "Well, okay," said Dr. Stantz. "But on one condition."
"Um…okay," I said, a little apprehensively.
Stantz smiled. "If you'll call us by our first names. None of that stuffy professor crap."
I grinned too. "Alright…Ray. It's a deal."
And that is how I came to meet the three best friends I'd ever have and embark on the adventure of a lifetime.