Jake wasn't sure what to think. Danny Fenton had just given him Danny Phantom's words, and now he was being dragged off by Jazz Fenton, and they'd hardly gotten around the corner and out of sight before Danny Phantom showed up with the thing that looked like a dream catcher on a stand.
"Fenton Ghost Catcher," Danny explained at Jake's blank look. He turned to Jazz. "You've got a thermos?"
"And a lipstick, wrist-ray, and ectogun. I'd say we're covered."
"And I've got, uh, handcuffs," Jake added, pulling one out.
Danny smiled. "Great. Those'll come in handy, too."
"I never saw you," Jake said, absently noting that Danny had gone back to wearing his jumpsuit thing again, "after you left."
"You weren't supposed to," Danny pointed out. "I told you I was playing it safe. The Fentons weren't too hard to find, I take it?"
Jazz snorted. "You've been around Amity Park long enough, Phantom, to know Mom and Dad—especially Dad—tend to announce their presence. I'd be surprised if anyone looking for us missed us." She looked at Jake then, adding, "Thanks. For looking after him. Phantom might be a ghost, but if my parents have taught me anything, it's that even ghosts can be destroyed. And I don't want that for him. He's a hero."
"Jazz!" To Jake's surprise, Danny looked flushed.
Ghosts…were weird. Didn't you need blood to—no, he wasn't even going to think about it. "It's cool," Jake said. "He's not much trouble."
"Gee, thanks," Danny said sarcastically. "I'm only helping you get rid of a ghost problem."
"It's what you do," Jazz reminded him. Danny made a face at her.
It was really weird to watch. Man, they acted like he and Haley did. That's not to say he'd never made faces at his friends or had the same done back to him, but the banter was…. It wasn't the same as the kind that went between him and Spud and Trixie.
Then again, Danny and Jazz and, presumably, Danny and Sam and Tucker weren't necessarily like him and Spud and Trix. Not all good, close friends shared the same things. Not in the same way, anyway. Even when important secrets were shared, like him being the Am Drag and Danny Phantom being able to do his…trick thing.
But if Danny Fenton was right, then four of them knew about Danny Phantom's secret, whatever it was. And Danny Phantom had said three. And Jake…. He kind of got the feeling that that hadn't been a slip or a deliberate lie on Danny Phantom's part. Which meant Danny Fenton had to have lied to him, even if Jake had no idea why.
He was also figuring out, really fast, why Jazz kept referring to him as Phantom. He'd started with it, but he'd fallen out of the habit. Once Danny had become Danny, well, he'd seemed less ghost-like. Less like a phantom. Except that's what a phantom was, according to Fu. A human-like ghost, to the point that you didn't always realize that it was a phantom and not actually another person.
Not to mention that he'd had to call him Danny in front of his parents, and then just using Phantom like it was his last name, the way he did with Rotwood, didn't seem…right. Especially not since he'd realized, pretty quickly after meeting Danny, that he was definitely a good ghost like he kept insisting.
Of course, that was another thing. Jake highly doubted that Phantom really was Danny's last name. He'd probably just adopted it because that's what he was. After all, with as many ghosts floating around Amity Park as it sounded like there were, it wouldn't exactly be unusual. Keeping ghosts a secret there was already a lost cause, so knowledge of magical creatures there, providing it didn't really spread too far or go beyond ghosts, didn't matter.
So maybe it had been to hide who he really was.
Because his parents didn't know.
And, presumably, the rest of Amity Park didn't know, its ghost hunters included.
Since he didn't want them to know.
Why the heck would he keep who he was from the ghost hunters who chased him down if it meant they'd stop?
But that was it, of course. Because they wouldn't. Because they'd be like the Huntsclan, not like Rose. They wouldn't stop when they found out who he was. They'd hunt him down anyway. Catch him and kill him. Or destroy him. Jazz had said as much. Danny had definitely implied it.
Jake blinked and realized that Jazz Fenton was waving a hand in front of his face. She gave him a rueful smile. "Sorry," she said, "but you weren't paying attention. Danny's going to fly us, all right? It'll be faster."
"Oh. Right. Uh, I'll catch up with you. We've still got our boards here. I won't be far behind you. You can go on without me."
"You're sure?" Jazz was definitely looking at him, not at Danny.
"Danny knows the way," Jake said.
"I hope so, because he can have a terrible sense of direction sometimes."
"It's true. Don't pretend it's not."
"I'm getting better. I'm loads better than I used to be."
"But you still need improvement," Jazz retorted.
"I managed to map the part of the Ghost Zone close to the portal when you've only been there once!"
"But that was after you got lost how many times, exactly?"
Jake closed his eyes. He was still getting the brother-sister vibe. And it was still freaky. Probably because of the fact that there really was a Danny Fenton who, honestly, was creepily similar to Danny Phantom. If he thought about it. Which he was really finding it hard not to do.
"I know the way, okay? Just trust me."
"Yeah." Jazz's voice was softer now, the teasing tone gone. It was caring instead. "I do."
Jake opened his eyes. He might not be that great at reading people—heck, he'd gotten it wrong enough times to essentially say he couldn't really do it very well at all—but he could not shake that feeling he got. Heck, it almost seemed like Danny Phantom was more Jazz's brother than Danny Fenton. Granted, he hadn't spent a whole lot of time with Danny Fenton….
But maybe that was it. Well, not it, exactly, but maybe this wasn't what he'd been thinking initially. Maybe Danny Phantom really wasn't an ordinary ghost. Maybe he was different for more reasons than just the fact that he was a phantom.
Jake was familiar with duplicates. Well, doppelgängers. He'd made them himself, more than once, until he'd learned his lesson. And he knew about shapeshifting. And a whole lot of other types of magic. And he definitely understood about double lives and lies and everything else.
He'd have to talk to Fu. He needed to ask Marty. He'd know, if anyone did. The guy was the Grim Reaper, after all. Even if he hadn't been the one to reap Danny, he should still know something.
Professor Hans Rotwood could not stop smiling.
He'd lost five cameras in this whole fiasco. Five cameras that he'd taken out to the park had been returned to him by Jake's grandfather well beyond repair, the film within ruined in each and every case. But his visit to the park earlier had paid off, and he'd found the sixth and final camera crammed into a bush. The same one, he suspected, that the ghosts had knocked him into. Well, one of the many bushes. But the point still stood.
While the camera itself had not survived, with a broken lens and destroyed control panel that wasn't worth the trouble it would take to repair, the film within was unharmed.
He'd had to find another camera and transfer the tape, but it played. It played on the camera, it played when transferred to his computer, and it played on the discs he'd made. At long last, he had proof of the existence of magical creatures.
Most importantly, he had proof of the existence of magical creatures and a certain Jake Long was not aware of it.
The video was, unfortunately, grainy, and the audio was fainter in spots than he would have liked, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. There was enough light, enough clarity of sound, to make it very clear that the six ghosts of Shackles Jack's gang, its leader included, had made their appearance. That they'd surrounded him. Overpowered him. Thrown him into the view of the camera, knocking it down. And, if he looked very closely, he could see, between the twigs and leaves, the ghosts flying off.
But that wasn't it. He wasn't humming happily to himself solely because the camera controls had been jammed on 'record', rendering every other function defunct. It wasn't simply because, even though most of the lights he'd set up had also found their ruin at the hands of the ghosts, the moon had cast enough light to see the magical creatures depart. It wasn't even because the lens of the camera had not broken until sometime later that night, when the camera itself had finally come loose from its tenuous perch in the trees and hit the ground.
The tape, when set right at the start, had been empty. Nothing more for him to see than him setting everything up. But with the tape being capable of holding six hours of film, he hadn't missed anything, not like he usually did. He'd had to skip through things initially, and he had to skip through things now, but he had proof of what he'd wanted desperately for over a year now: the existence of dragons.
It wasn't very easy to see, what with the lack of light and obstacles in the camera's field of view, but it was easy enough to tell that a dragon, or at least some sort of giant lizard, was standing where an old man had been a moment before. That the same creature, when it made its second appearance on the tape, was holding a conversation with a dog—a dog which talked back. Talked back, could walk on its hind legs if it desired, could pick things up as if it had opposable thumbs and did so with such apparent ease that it had done so many times before….
He had it.
After so many years, so much time, so much hard work and determination, he had it.
Copies and copies of it.
Ghosts. Dragons. Talking dogs. Magical creatures.
Copies for his records. One for the Hoboken Scientific Institute. One for the internet. A few to specific organizations who had ridiculed him over the years, to people who had laughed in his face when he'd proposed his ideas or theories. And, of course, copies for the very media organizations who had, only a few days earlier, called him a fraud. He had undeniable, hard-earned, well-deserved evidence. Exactly what they'd called for him to provide.
No one could make a mockery of him now, for he would be the first mythobiologist to offer definitive proof to those outside their circle of schooling. Proof that couldn't be written off as something else. Proof of the existence of another world that had been hidden from them for so long, proof that there was more on this earth than just what there appeared to be. Proof of the truth in all the tales and folklore and myths that everyone else scorned. Proof that some fairytales were indeed real. Proof.
And it was all thanks to him, Professor Hans Rotwood.
To Danny's credit, he didn't seem to have any trouble finding the electronics shop. And he didn't seem to have much trouble carrying her and the Ghost Catcher, either. But then again, she wouldn't expect him to. If he had, she'd have been terribly worried.
"Exactly how long have you spent as Phantom?" Jazz asked as Danny set her down.
Danny shrugged. "We can figure it out later, Jazz. We've got more important things to deal with now. Like the other ghosts."
Deflection. Typical. But he did have a point; the other ghosts were more important at the moment. But still…. "Shouldn't we wait for Jake? You gave him the Fenton Cuffs."
"He'll be along soon," Danny said dismissively. "He can fly, too, remember."
"Even when he's pretending to be normal?"
"I think he's betting that you won't figure out how long it would take the normal way."
"If you say so," Jazz murmured, thinking this was not something to fight. She didn't know Jake, after all. But if he was anything like Danny…. Well, if he was, she could see him banking on other people's ignorance, easy acceptance, and—on occasion—lack of desire to question something that doesn't seem important.
There was a reason so few people in Amity Park knew Danny's secret, after all.
"Gramps?" Danny called as he entered the shop, carrying the Fenton Ghost Catcher with him. "Fu? Anyone here?"
"In the back!"
Jazz shot a questioning glance at Danny. "Fu Dog," he said, putting the Ghost Catcher down.
Right. The other thing she had to get used to. Heaven help her, if she hadn't had proof of ghosts, she would never have believed any of this. Somehow, it was simpler to believe in dragons than talking dogs.
But the magical world was, apparently, existent. And magical. In all its logic-defying ways.
It was times like these that she could actually understand how her parents had not yet figured out Danny's secret. You can never reach the right conclusion when you never consider it to be a possibility in the first place.
"I brought Jazz Fenton with me," Danny continued as he walked forward. "But it's fine, guys. She can keep a secret. Trust me. I wouldn't have brought her if I didn't trust her with my life. Er, afterlife."
An elderly man—Gramps, Jazz assumed—appeared from behind the curtain that led to the back of the shop just as Danny reached it. He looked at Danny, then at her, and then back at Danny before pronouncing, "You told her."
"What? Uh, no, of course not. I wouldn't…." Danny's denial died on his lips at the look on the old man's face. He sighed. "Okay, maybe I told her a little bit."
"I think he told me the gist of everything," Jazz interjected, figuring she might as well be frank. It wouldn't look particularly good for her if she started off with a lie. "But we can deal with that later. Phantom's right; right now, the most pressing problem is the ghosts I'm assuming you have in the back room."
Ignoring what sounded like a mumble of, "The dragon council will not be pleased," Jazz pushed her way past Gramps to see what they were dealing with.
She recognized the Fenton Collapsible Cage immediately. It housed four ghosts and was adjusted for the size. On a desk at the back stood a thermos which, remembering what Danny had told her on the flight over, Jazz could only assume was the makeshift one he'd used to catch three of the ghosts. And the remaining ones…. The two people being overshadowed were, like the first ghosts, being kept in a cage. Though it wasn't FentonWorks technology, it seemed no less effective. The ghosts were unable to phase through it and escape—or even leave their hosts, supposedly, which is why Danny had wanted the Ghost Catcher.
Still, she couldn't stop her attention from being drawn to the dog that sat on a chair, talking on a cell phone, as if that were the most normal thing in the world. "…can't make any promises…uh…woof? Woof woof?"
Jazz smiled. "Fu Dog, I'm guessing," she said, offering her hand. "Jazz Fenton."
"I'll see what I can do," Fu said into the phone. He promptly hung up and looked at Jazz's hand. "I don't shake," he said bluntly.
"Oh." Jazz flushed, dropping her hand.
Fu laughed; Danny and Gramps, who had entered the room, also snickered. Well, Danny snickered; Gramps merely smiled. "Kidding," Fu said, reaching forward to grab her hand. "Nice to meet you. You here to help with the ghosts?"
Jazz nodded. "I'm your Fenton representative."
"And what of your brother?" Gramps asked. "I understood you were both friends of Danny's."
Jazz glanced at Danny and gave an apologetic shrug. "Mom and Dad aren't exactly Danny Phantom's greatest fans. Danny's keeping them preoccupied. Besides, if he steers clear, then we don't have to go over the whole 'Danny Fenton, Danny Phantom' thing."
"Must get confusing," Fu agreed. He glanced at Danny, asking, "Jake far behind you?"
"Probably not," Danny said. "He's got the Fenton Cuffs, but I'm hoping we won't need them."
"But we're going to play it safe," Jazz added, "so we're going to wait. Right, Phantom?"
Danny rolled his eyes, ignoring her. "The plan," he continued, "will be to dislodge our friends over there from their hosts."
"Your last little trick didn't work," one of them sneered. The two men were tied up, despite being in a cage, but they weren't gagged—probably so that they could sip some water from the straws in the bottles that had been left for them. It was no good, after all, to weaken the men the ghosts had overshadowed. But, thankfully, her little brother had the sense not to spill the entire plan in front of them. Not in specifics, at least.
He didn't take the bait, either, and ignored the ghost—possessed human, more like—as effortlessly as he'd ignored her.
Practice did make perfect after all.
"Jazz has a few things with her in case anything gets out of hand, so I'll let her show you how they work. She's got enough for everyone, I think." Danny rubbed the back of his neck and looked at Gramps. "You're not, uh, mad that I said something to her, are you?"
"It's not entirely his fault," Jazz cut in. "I forced it out of him. I knew he was keeping something from me. Things didn't add up, and I wanted the whole story."
Gramps sighed. "We will manage," he said, and Jazz wasn't sure, entirely, what that meant. It worried her a bit—for all she knew, these guys had something up their sleeves that meant they could wipe her mind—but she was determined not to think about it. She needed to help Danny first.
"Come on," Jazz said. "I'll show you how to work the equipment while we wait for Jake to catch up with us."
Jake was still on the phone with Fu when Danny and Jazz arrived at the shop. Fu had taken the time to call out earlier, thinking it was just Danny, since Jake hadn't actually told him that Danny was bringing along a guest—mainly because he'd had other things on his mind. But Fu had promised to get in touch with Marty, so Jake was hopeful that he'd get some straight answers.
Following assumptions before had been leading him down the wrong path. Three people knew his secret, Phantom had said. And then Fenton had confirmed that four knew it. Specifically, Phantom's four trusted friends. But Jake was beginning to suspect that Phantom's so-called 'camouflage trick' was a bit more…. Well, a bit more detailed than that, to put things nicely.
Jake wasn't really sure that he wanted to think about what it meant if his growing suspicions were right.
He grabbed the discarded boards and helmets before finding a secluded place to dragon up and fly to the shop. His wing stung a bit, but thanks to Fu's salve, it worked fine. He probably should've killed more time before showing up, but he was pretty sure this was Jazz Fenton's first time in New York. And distances seemed a lot shorter when you actually went as the crow flies.
Besides, she was probably preoccupied with Shackles Jack and the rest of the ghosts. For all that she was comfortable around Danny Phantom, these ghosts weren't the same, and no matter what her parents did for a living, it would have to take some getting used to.
And, anyway, if he understood what Spud had been saying about Amity Park's ghosts, they were more like Danny in the first place. Jazz might not have encountered this type before. If she had, she probably hadn't been the one to deal with the problem. More likely than not, that would have fallen to her parents. So as much as she wanted to help, she would undoubtedly have her hands full. Her mind would be on other things.
When he went inside the shop, he was forced to wonder whether he should have even bothered trying to be subtle. Fu certainly wasn't. Jazz was showing him how to use some kind of gun thing. Fenton tech, Jake figured, if the green F emblazoned in a fireball on the side was anything to go by.
Evidently Fu's earlier transition during the phone call to his outdated version of dog speak had been because Jazz had interrupted, not just briefly appeared in the back room. And she must've caught him at it if he'd just out and given up and went back to talking normally.
This suspicion was confirmed when Jazz glanced at him and asked, "Good flight?"
Jake sighed, dropping the stuff inside the shop. "Danny told you, huh?" He wasn't sure how betrayed he felt by that; Jazz would be a lot more help to them now that she knew, true, and he might've ended up telling her anyway, but this was his secret, and Danny shouldn't have said anything. Not without at least asking him.
But he had, and now….
"I wouldn't have guessed it," Jazz said quietly. "I hope my knowing doesn't complicate things for you. Your grandfather doesn't seem too happy about it." She glanced over her shoulder before adding, "Phantom's with him. Getting the run down on that cage you guys have back there."
"Don't worry about the old man," Fu said, firing a blast off with the gun. A green streak shot past Jake's left ear and singed the wall behind him. "He'll come round. You're a special case."
"Because I'm Phantom's friend?" Jazz guessed.
Jake snorted, pushing his mixed feelings of Phantom aside for now. He could deal with them later. "Probably because you're aware of magical creatures already," he said.
"Jake's right," Fu confirmed. "It'll give you an edge, but you still might have to fight for it."
A frown crossed Jazz's face. "Fight for it?" she repeated.
Jake figured he'd better take this one. "When Trixie and Spud—my friends—found out about me, the dragon council decreed that they should forget it. Fu made a special potion and everything. But I couldn't give it to them, and, I dunno. Gramps must've stuck up for me, 'cause they got off my back about it."
Jazz looked shocked. "Oh," finally escaped her. Then, "What about Phantom?"
"He's in the clear," Jake said. "I mean, technically, a ghost counts as a magical creature, so he's part of this world already. Like me."
"Like you indeed," Jazz murmured, so quietly that Jake hardly heard her. He probably wasn't meant to. When she continued, it was in a louder voice. "The Fenton Cuffs are in case things go wrong. The Fenton Ghost Catcher—" here she pointed to the dream catcher-like contraption Danny had brought "—should expel the ghosts from the humans. Phantom's used it before when ghostly energy takes over a person and can't be knocked out like an overshadowing ghost usually can. But if it doesn't work, the Fenton Cuffs will help to neutralize any ghost energy within the humans. Restrict their powers, if you will."
"Their powers are already restricted," Jake said. "Didn't Danny tell you? That's why we can keep them in that cage. They're as powerless as normal humans now."
"But you don't know if they can leave at will," Jazz pointed out. "We're assuming they can't, but if they can, the Fenton Cuffs will prevent that."
"If they could do that, wouldn't they've done it already?"
"Not necessarily. It would depend on their strategy. And, anyway, if we have trouble getting either of them into the Fenton Thermos, we can use it to contain them. I'll work the thermos and the wrist ray. Fu's got the ectogun and I already showed your grandfather how to use the lipstick—"
"Laser lipstick, if you will," Jazz said. "It shoots a finer beam than the ectogun, anyway."
"Right." Maybe seeing the Fenton's ghost-hunting equipment inventory wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. If he ever ran into any more ghosts, Trixie and Spud could use some of this stuff. "And me?"
"Danny will have the thermos your friend made as a backup," Jazz said. "He'll be trying to weaken the ghosts enough, just like us, to ensure that they can't resist the pull of the thermos. But if things get out of hand, you'll have to step in and get them in the handcuffs."
Jake had the feeling he wouldn't get a straight answer if he asked exactly how he was supposed to do that, so he merely nodded. He probably had this job because he, unlike Jazz, could actually touch the ghosts. Assuming Jazz knew she couldn't.
Whatever. The sooner they got this over with, the sooner he wouldn't have to worry about Shackles Jack and his gang, and the sooner he could confirm—or disprove—what he'd figured out about Danny Phantom. "Ready when you are," Jake said, pulling the first set of handcuffs from his pocket.